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New position at Rutgers is part of “reimagined” corporate engagement team

By David Schwartz
Published: October 20th, 2020

A detailed article on Rutgers’ new Director of Entrepreneurship Partnerships position appears in the October issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here.

The recently announced position of Director of Entrepreneurship Partnerships at Rutgers University comes as the university works to essentially recreate its Corporate Engagement Center (CEC) after determining that something was lacking in its overall structure, according to Sacha Patera, PhD, associate vice president and head of the CEC.

“We have created the Corporate Engagement Center completely from scratch,” she says, noting that this opportunity resulted in the creation of two “uncommon” positions. “We hired Kara Moore in the position of Director of Corporate Intelligence and Assessment — a strategy person for ‘all things data,’” says Patera. “We want to make as many data-driven decisions as possible, such as [those involving] tiering, how to best spend time with industry partners, understanding where the relationships stand, what we should focus on, and what they are interested in.

“The other component,” she continues, “is at the moment we do not have a centralized entrepreneurship initiative, although that could change under our new president. There’s been a lot of entrepreneurial activity, but it has not coalesced into a single place.”

In, effect, she explains, that activity exists in “many places but perhaps with not very efficient coordination. Because we report to both the Office of Research and the Rutgers University Foundation, and Pavita [Pavita Howe, the new director of entrepreneurship partnerships] had a role in the Office of Research where she created and launched a gap fund program for technology development, it seemed to make sense to have somebody who would be a liaison to all entrepreneurship programs on campus while being able to assist the foundation with alumni inquiries. So we created this position and felt that Pavita would be able to fill these roles seamlessly.”

Patera says there is little precedent available at other universities on which to model this new position. “We really had to consider the needs of our stakeholders,” she admits. “We only had one position; do I need a frontline officer, or someone able to attend to the entrepreneurship niche? It really is a niche, different from the other things CEC does. It’s not quite a development role, it’s not research, yet we’re the right place to host this because of where we report to. We have an institutional purview, and now we’ll be able to be in all conversations about entrepreneurship strategies … and as they develop, we will continue to be in those conversations because now we have this role.”

According to a recent Rutgers news release, the goal of the new position, which started last November, is to make the CEC “the place to go to get information about Rutgers entrepreneurial activity; to connect external partners with entrepreneurial people and programs within the university; and to also provide access to resources and make valuable connections for entrepreneurs, investors, alumni and other Rutgers supporters within that community.”

How does Howe plan to accomplish these objectives? First, she feels her background and experience position her well. She worked extensively with tech start-ups in California, directing marketing efforts and new product launches, as well as helping with pitches to Silicon Valley investors. After moving to New Jersey, she started an entrepreneurship consultancy, and became a mentor for one of the state’s first accelerators. About four years ago she joined Rutgers, and in the Tech Advance gap fund program she was involved in the funding of 50 projects totaling $3.8 million.

Like Patera, Howe saw “a real gap” in the university’s entrepreneurship efforts. “Since we do not have an obvious entrepreneurship center, people may not know where to go if they want to connect,” she observes. “People are eager to know what the students and faculty are doing; they are all doing good things but with a somewhat limited audience. That’s one advantage of being in a university-wide position and having a marketing background — and now knowing something about the university’s entrepreneurial activities it became clear that we really needed to be able to tie all this together.”

Individuals, organizations, alumni, investors, and entrepreneurs all want to connect for different reasons, she explains.

“Experienced alumni investors or entrepreneurs may want to give back as mentors or speakers, or being judges on panels,” she offers. “Faculty who are entrepreneurial are looking for mentors, collaborators, research funding, or co-founders. We also hear from all sorts of entrepreneurs — faculty, students, or alumni. Who do they go to? How do they get plugged in?”

The other new position in CEC will prove quite helpful in these efforts, she continues. “There are many alumni entrepreneurs, some of whom have done extremely well,” Howe notes. “Kara sends us news or announcements about start-ups, which may say the founder is an alum or a vice president who just got $20 million in funding or launched an IPO. We find a lot of these people. Also, there are younger alumni entrepreneurs who need pre-seed funding or help growing their start-ups, or other alumni who might be good mentors or connections for these entrepreneurs. There may also be some philanthropic contact points.”

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Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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