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Making a Difference in the World

UMass Lowell Trains Students in Entrepreneurship, Innovation

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Students involved in the DifferenceMaker program held up signs during Convocation in September.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

Work Ready. Life Ready. World Ready.

That’s the goal of the University — to help students solve real-life problems, to shape their future, to be able to thrive in a supportive or collaborative environment and to make a difference in the community, the region and the world.

One of the University’s signature programs designed to achieve this goal is the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, where students of all disciplines can work together to develop innovative products, services and new businesses that make a difference.

“The goal of the center is to aid the development of an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset among UMass Lowell students, faculty and graduates so they, in turn, can solve the very complex problems facing our community and society in this 21st century,” says Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney.

“Through the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, along with affiliated faculty and other campus programs, we are introducing a range of activities geared toward expanding our students’ understanding of how they can make a difference in the world,” says Assoc. Prof. Steven Tello, associate vice chancellor for entrepreneurship and economic development. 

Tello directs the center’s DifferenceMaker program, which provides training, mentoring and other resources to students who wish to address social, environmental and economic problems in the community through innovative and entrepreneurial action.

“We already know our students do make a difference — our many successful alumni are evidence of this — but rather than waiting for future graduates to discover their chosen career path, we are introducing academic and extra-curricular programs that specifically engage our students in innovative and entrepreneurial problem-solving,” he says.

A Multidisciplinary Effort

Tello says the Manning School of Business offers two academic programs focused on entrepreneurship: an undergraduate entrepreneurship concentration that prepares students to become “outside-of-the-box” thinkers and innovators in today’s complex global economy, and a master of science degree in innovation and technological entrepreneurship, which provides engineers, business majors and scientists with the skills and knowledge they need to drive innovation in today’s collaborative, global workforce.

The Computer Science Department offers an entrepreneurship option in its master’s degree program for those who want to understand the tools required to develop a software services and products company.

In the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department’s Assistive Technology Program students can complete their senior capstone project and apply the knowledge they have learned to help solve everyday problems for people with physical disabilities by creating innovative devices.

The Merrimack Valley Sandbox

“One of the center’s partners is the Merrimack Valley Sandbox, which is generously supported by the Deshpande Foundation,” says Tello. “It encourages the development of entrepreneurial ventures and leaders through competitions and leadership training programs.” 

The Sandbox’s Catalyst program, for example, provides seed funding and mentoring support to foster new ideas and programs among local high-school and college students, while its Entrepreneur Program gives business people a greater chance at success through pitch contests, workshops and intensive programs. The Sandbox Leadership Institute offers leadership development for individuals who live, work or are interested in the communities of Lawrence and Lowell.

A New Home

The Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship is currently located on the second floor of Wannalancit Mills on East Campus. It scheduled to move in to its new offices in January, on the ground floor of Lydon Library on North Campus, which is right next to the newly inaugurated Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center.