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University announces launch of pan-university entrepreneurship initiative

The goal of the initiative is to catalyze entrepreneurship across the university and help university colleagues navigate entrepreneurship

Many University alumni have gone on to become entrepreneurs, such as the founders of Reddit, LendingTree, and the clothing company Rhoback.
Many University alumni have gone on to become entrepreneurs, such as the founders of Reddit, LendingTree, and the clothing company Rhoback.

As part of the “Great and Good” 2030 strategic plan, the University launched a pan-university entrepreneurship initiative. The purpose of the initiative is to help students, faculty, and alumni advance their entrepreneurial goals with more opportunities and resources, according to UVA Today.

Some focuses of the initiative are increasing accessibility to entrepreneurship programs for students across the University’s schools and increasing funding for entrepreneurship programs — as well as expanding the opportunities and resources for students interested in entrepreneurship.

Darden Prof. Michael Lenox is leading the initiative in collaboration with President Jim Ryan, Provost Ian Baucom and other University staff. Lenox said that he’s been working on expanding entrepreneurship at the University over the last decade, and this initiative is a big step forward. According to Lenox, the initiative is still in its early stages after the announcement, but will hopefully ramp up soon. 

“Entrepreneurship is one of those powerful vehicles for getting those ideas and solutions out there,” Lenox said. “What I find from the student side is [entrepreneurship] is such a powerful opportunity for having an impact, and dare I say kind of achieving your dreams, and we should be a catalyst for that.”

The “Great and Good” strategic plan aims to make the University the best public university in the nation by 2030. This new initiative will stand along a number of other initiatives aimed at elevating the University to this status, such as the new School of Data Science and SuccessU.Va., which will improve advising and expand financial aid to attract outstanding students.

Lenox also said there is initial funding of roughly $5 million in the next few years dedicated to the initiative, but he views it as seed funding, meaning that the initiative will amass more funds over time.

Omar Garriott, executive director of the Batten Institute, has played a role in the development of the new initiative. Garriot said that one aim of the initiative is to connect the various facets with the rest of the University so as to centralize and unify entrepreneurial efforts.

“There are many pockets within the University where entrepreneurship programming and curricula are being offered,” Garriott said. “How do we take those pockets of activity and even excellence and make sure that they ladder up to something bigger and better for the entire community?”

This effort, Garriott noted, could prove to be a challenge. Part of that challenge will include making sure the pockets of entrepreneurship that exist in different areas across the University add up to something bigger as a whole for the community.

Lenox said he plans to meet with stakeholders over the next month and try to determine what actions to take next.

“My role is to get the ball moving and get some agreement about various stakeholders and get action going,” Lenox said. “We will see certain things arise here fairly quickly, and there will be more announcements coming and action taken.”

Many University alumni have gone on to become entrepreneurs, such as the founders of Reddit, LendingTree, and the clothing company Rhoback. Garriott said he’d like to see a phase in the initiative that involves alumni engagement, based on his experience as an undergraduate student.

“I really want U.Va. to be on the map for entrepreneurship and innovation,” Garriott said. “It's really important for the school to burnish its brand in areas that it might not currently be as strong.”

The University currently offers entrepreneurship minors in the McIntire School of Commerce, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. There are also multiple entrepreneurship programs and courses offered at the graduate level, such as through the Darden School of Business.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article referred to the pan-university initiative as a Darden led initiative. The initiative is not Darden led and the article has been updated to reflect this change.