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Our Story

Waynesburg U.’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program recognized nationally as a “Rising Star”

Kayla Ayers Jun 17, 2022

Waynesburg University’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program was presented with the Rising Star Award for Excellence in Curriculum Innovation in Entrepreneurship at the 11th Annual Deshpande Symposium Thursday, June 16.

The Deshpande Symposium is a national gathering of entrepreneurship educators, policy planners, and practitioners. The awards are peer-reviewed. Being recognized by our peers across the country as a rising star in curricular innovation is exciting and affirming.”

Mindy Walls

A formal reception was held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Mindy Walls, Director of the University’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program and the W. Robert Stover Chair for Entrepreneurial Leadership, accepted the award.

“The Deshpande Symposium is a national gathering of entrepreneurship educators, policy planners, and practitioners,” said Walls. “The awards are peer-reviewed. Being recognized by our peers across the country as a rising star in curricular innovation is exciting and affirming. Having others recognize our work will help us tell the story of innovation at Waynesburg University and hopefully attract students.”

Walls was accompanied by Andrew Heisey, Chairperson for the Fine Arts Department and Associate Professor of Art; Dr. Janet Paladino, Professor of Environmental Science; and Lily Portman, graduate assistant for the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program.

Recipients of the Excellence in Curriculum Innovation in Entrepreneurship Award are recognized for their demonstration of and commitment to innovative educational courses and/or programs that promote institution-wide entrepreneurship education. Cognizant of the criteria of the award, Walls felt one particular Waynesburg course, Plastics to Progress, aligned with its purpose, and submitted a nomination.

Co-created and taught by Walls and six faculty members comprised of Waynesburg’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Faculty Fellows, the Plastics to Progress course provided students with an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving while serving the community’s need for plastic recycling. Over the duration of the fall semester, students studied plastic waste issues using plastics accessible across campus and generated ideas for how to repurpose it.

In addition to Heisey, Paladino and Walls, Dr. Evonne Baldauff, Chairperson for the Chemistry and Forensic Science Department and Professor of Chemistry; Melanie Catana, Assistant Professor of Vocal Music and Director of Choral Music; Dr. Abolade Ezekiel Olagoke, Professor of Sociology; and Melinda Roeder Skrbin, Instructor of Communication, co-taught the course.

Based on their particular areas of expertise, each fellow worked to develop a learning outcome and assignments for the class. With backgrounds ranging from chemistry and environmental science to fine arts, sociology and communication, the multidisciplinary collaboration challenged students to focus on more than just the business aspect of the project. This benefited both students and faculty by allowing them to grow from each unique approach to problem solving.

“I believe that the interdisciplinary approach helped the students to see the connectedness between topics that are often considered completely different from one another,” said Dr. Baldauff.

“Oftentimes I think we do students a disservice when we predominately offer classes as stand-alone topics, when in reality this is seldom the case,” Dr. Baldauff added. “In this class, we considered plastics across the spectrum of micro- to macro-scale, i.e. from the atoms that fuse together to give it form and unique properties, to the problems that plastic solved and then the new problems plastic created on a global scale, plus the added dimensions of re-forming plastic with an aesthetic and entrepreneurial eye! It was comprehensive, complex, and convoluted, but it showcased the real-world more than any class I’ve ever taught.”


More on the 11th Annual Deshpande Symposium

Through this symposium, together, we expand opportunities for students to think and respond like entrepreneurs on their way to becoming our next generation of leaders."

Jacquie Moloney

The event, which annually draws hundreds of educators, business professionals, government and nonprofit leaders, advances how colleges and universities drive research, entrepreneurship, business growth and economic vitality in their respective communities.

Now in its 11th year, the international conference is dedicated to integrating entrepreneurship education and opportunities into campus life at colleges and universities across North America. This year, conference participants explored the impact higher ed institutions have on regional economic and social ecosystems as well as the opportunities collegiate entrepreneurship programs create to diversify the professional talent pool and foster greater equity and inclusion in the workplace.

During the Symposium, UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney was honored for her role in founding the Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education. Moloney, the first woman to lead UMass Lowell, received the Deshpande Symposium Founders Award. She co-founded the conference with partners from the Deshpande and Burton D. Morgan foundations.

“I am profoundly grateful to receive this honor from my peers. Through this symposium, together, we expand opportunities for students to think and respond like entrepreneurs on their way to becoming our next generation of leaders,” said Moloney, who shared the Founder’s Award this year with co-recipient Deborah Hoover, the Morgan Foundation’s president.

Among leading other foundation initiatives, Hoover has been instrumental in bringing entrepreneurship programs to liberal arts college campuses across northeastern Ohio.

Other recipients of this year’s awards included: 

  • Outstanding Contributions to Advancing Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education Award: Prof. Nathalie Duval-Couteil, Purdue University entrepreneurship program director.
  • Excellence in Curriculum Innovation in Entrepreneurship Award: The Derby Entrepreneurship Center at Tufts University.
  • The Excellence in Student Engagement in Entrepreneurship Award: Northeastern University and the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneurship Center at the University of New Hampshire.
  • The Deshpande Symposium Award for Technology Commercialization: GDC I-ncubate at the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras and Dal Innovates at Dalhousie University.

“This year’s awardees highlighted diversity of programming, curriculum and geography, including strong representation from Canada and India. Once again, a program was recognized for innovation and potential in their approaches with the Rising Star Award,” said Raj Melville, executive director of the Deshpande Foundation.

"We congratulate this year’s awardees, who demonstrate the solutions-oriented approach to supporting university innovation and entrepreneurship that the Deshpande Symposium is known for,” said Phil Weilerstein, president and CEO of VentureWell, which funds and trains faculty and student innovators to create successful, socially beneficial businesses. “Over the past 10 years, the accomplishments of this community of higher ed changemakers have grown.”

About Waynesburg University

Consistently ranked a best value school, Waynesburg University’s Strategy for the 21st Century affirms its commitment to developing an entrepreneurial mindset and ethical leadership skills for all students. Rooted in its mission of faith, learning and service, the private, Christian university is located on a traditional campus in the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania, with an additional site for graduate and professional programs in Southpointe.

The Entrepreneurial Leadership Program

Launched in 2018, the mission of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program at Waynesburg University is to provide students across all majors with the educational framework to instill an entrepreneurial mindset. Through the use of cross-disciplinary coursework, students from various disciplines with an interest in entrepreneurial leadership are able to develop that mindset through problem-solving skills transferable to any profession.