Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship Acknowledged for Statewide Community Impact
All eyes were on entrepreneurship when the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recognized the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at their board meeting in Austin on April 23 for program excellence and student success.
Bauer College Dean Latha Ramchand presented the entrepreneurship program’s accomplishments and community impact to the board alongside WCE Associate Director Ken Jones and Bauer Department of Marketing & Entrepreneurship Chair Ed Blair. Also on hand for the recognition were program namesakes Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff and WCE founder and co-chairman William Sherrill.
“My team and I are really privileged to be here. In many ways, it literally started here in 1995 with the approval from the coordinating board that led to the creation of this program,” Ramchand said. “Your approval of this vision that we had has now come full circle.”
Jones shared highlights from the 18-month, lockstep undergraduate entrepreneurship program, including its eight consecutive years ranking in the top three on The Princeton Review’s Top 25 Undergraduate Schools for Entrepreneurs list published annually in Entrepreneur magazine. He also shared that WCE’s final project of the program’s capstone course, Wolffest, brought in approximately $123,000 in capital last month that will be invested back into WCE for teambuilding and networking opportunities, as well as to cover travel for business plan competitions across the country.
“The best evidence of our program’s success, and what really represents what we do, is our students and their work,” Jones said.
To that end, Jones introduced recent WCE alumni Eric Beydoun and Cassandra Hoang to the board. Each spoke about their experiences leading Houston-based companies, which were founded while they both were still entrepreneurship students on business plan competition teams that commercialized patented UH intellectual property created by university researchers.
“Bauer College is not just about academics. The program is entirely community driven. We’re for the community and exist in the community because of the community support we receive on campus,” Ramchand said. “Our community applauds us when we do well, helps us when we struggle and has been with us all along this journey.”
UH startup accelerator RED Labs was also acknowledged as part of Bauer’s community outreach efforts, specifically the launch of a summer session in TMCx, the new 100,000-square-foot accelerator space launched by the Texas Medical Center, alongside other similar programs in the Houston area. Clinical Assistant Professor and RED Labs founder Hesam Panahi and WCE Program Coordinator Kelly McCormick were applauded for their work with the accelerator, which has seen 28 founders launch 11 companies since 2013.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board helps to promote access, affordability, quality, success and cost efficiency in the state’s higher education institutions through a plan called “Closing the Gaps by 2015” and its successor plan that rolls out this year, aiming to create a globally competent workforce that positions Texas as an international leader in an increasingly complex world economy.
Assistant Deputy Commissioner Mary Smith, who is also the interim assistant commissioner of College Readiness and Success, said she hopes WCE’s emphasis on cultivating marketable skills in its students will inspire other higher education institutions in the state.
“Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes looks to highlight success at every board meeting, and when we looked at all of the state’s programs, WCE particularly stood out,” Smith said. “With our new higher education plan for 2015-2023, one goal is for every public program in the state to be able to identify marketable skills their students will gain from their programs. WCE was a perfect example of this.”
By Danielle Ponder