Supporting Research and Innovation: Developing Talent
Jon Eckhardt, executive director of the School’s Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship, believes that the best businesses start with innovative, educated people. That’s why the Wisconsin School of Business is tapping into an underserved pool of potential entrepreneurs— students and alumni.
“Our approach is to develop relationships with people and support them in ways that suit their individual interests and goals,” Eckhardt says. “This human-capital model of entrepreneurship, which very few schools recognize in any formal way, is based on the notion that the university is a talent engine that attracts amazing, smart individuals from around the world. It also acknowledges that firms are started, grown, and managed by people, not technologies.”
It’s an approach that expands the breadth of the Weinert Center’s entrepreneurship programs to forge innovative partnerships with students, alumni, and faculty at all levels and disciplines across campus—partnerships that create opportunities for both faculty and alumni to become role models, mentors, and advisors in the business community.
—Jon Eckhardt, Associate Professor and Executive Director
Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship at the Wisconsin School of Business
“The School has a strong research tradition and continues to hire and build our faculty who research entrepreneurship. We also have many experienced business people and entrepreneurs who are involved in a variety of ways,” Eckhardt says. “Our alumni are integral to our approach toward entrepreneurship education and building companies. They help us deliver our programs through one-on-one mentoring, guest lectures, and by providing input on the curriculum. We very much see them as sources of expertise.”
Students often work on business assessment and growth strategy projects with local companies, providing them with applied learning opportunities that benefit the companies.
“It’s a win-win situation,” says Dan Olszewski, director of the Weinert Center. “The company gets value by having some really sharp students look at their businesses from an outside perspective, and the students learn a lot about that industry and get to apply what they’ve learned in class.”
Another element critical to the success of the Center’s approach to facilitating entrepreneurship is its partnerships with other units across campus, including the law school, school of engineering, and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).
“Some units we support with resources, and others we work with to create programs that help their people achieve their professional ambitions,” says Eckhardt. “The success we’ve had so far would not be possible without collaborating with our campus partners.”
The Center is in the early stages of implementing the person-focused model of entrepreneurship, and reinforces the university’s long-successful model of technology transfer.
“This will have huge payoffs,” Eckhardt says. “It will help students navigate their careers, and, more broadly, it has the potential to increase the economic impact of the university.”
The Weinert Center at the
Wisconsin School of Business
serves an average of
students per year
at UW–Madison across nearly