New Albany pilot program brings entrepreneur experience to students

The Purdue University College of Technology at New Albany has created a first-of-its-kind entrepreneurial program, thanks in part to a recent faculty grant from VentureWell. Timothy Cooley, associate professor of mechanical engineering technology, and Matt McKillip, director of research and innovation for Statewide Technology, are the recipients of the grant. VentureWell Faculty Grants support the creation of new courses and programs in which students develop ideas and gain the skills to bring them to market. This is the organization’s first faculty grant awarded to Purdue University.

The entrepreneurial program brings together students from several majors as part of a capstone experience. It will later be replicated across Purdue’s statewide network of eight College of Technology locations to expand its economic development impact.

New Albany's program exposes students to new learning and workplace environments. Many young graduates – and even current students -- want to start their own companies; others will work for small entrepreneurial firms. They will perform jobs that don’t necessarily fit the career model of a typical college major.

On a larger scale, the program is part of the College of Technology’s transformation, which has been identified as one of the signature Purdue Moves by President Mitch Daniels.

“This program reinforces to our community how a Purdue education is head-and-shoulders above our competition,” said Andrew Takami, director of the College of Technology at New Albany. “When we teach entrepreneurship, we don’t merely show our students how to have a concept to create a business plan around. Rather, we work with our students to make their idea into a prototype. The funding from VentureWell is allowing new possibilities.”

To begin the networking necessary to help the program succeed, the New Albany location gathered together Purdue alumni and entrepreneurs from the Louisville metro area March 17. They learned about mentoring opportunities with the student teams, and students showcased some of their early product designs and business models.

The unique features of the entrepreneurial capstone program allow students to:

  • Develop an idea into a marketable product or service
  • Watch lectures outside of class and in class present updates, pivots, and the status of their business model
  • Spend significant time outside of the classroom experiencing the real challenges of the market as they interact with customers
  • Receive personal mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs
  • Work in interdisciplinary teams with students from several Purdue majors
  • Apply skills in engineering, leadership, communication, design, and entrepreneurship.

Phil Weilerstein, president of VentureWell, lauded Purdue in its efforts to develop the program. “VentureWell is proud to support Purdue’s statewide initiative to cultivate technology innovation and entrepreneurship throughout its network. Tim Cooley and Matt McKillip share VentureWell's belief that students are capable of turning inventive ideas into companies that can change the world,” he said.

About VentureWell

VentureWell was founded in 1995 as the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) and rebranded in 2014 to underscore its impact as an education network that cultivates revolutionary ideas and promising inventions. A not-for-profit organization reaching more than 200 universities, VentureWell is the leader in funding, training, coaching and early investment that brings student innovations to market. Inventions created by VentureWell grantees are reaching millions of people in more than 50 countries and helping to solve some of our greatest 21st century challenges.