UNC, Top Administrator Recognized for Innovation

The University and a top administrator each received high honors this week from the Deshpande Foundation.

The Deshpande Symposium Awards recognized Judith Cone with the Outstanding Contributions to Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Higher Education Award and the University with the Entrepreneurial University Award for excellence in student engagement and curriculum innovation.

“I would like to thank the many at Carolina who’ve contributed to this recognition for excellence in entrepreneurship,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “As a result of that hard work, UNC-Chapel Hill’s business startups have generated $7 billion in annual revenue to the social and economic benefit of North Carolina and the nation.”

The awards were presented in Lowell, Mass., at the foundation’s fourth annual Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education.

Judith Cone

Judith Cone, special assistant to the chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and interim vice chancellor of commercialization and economic development.

Cone serves as the special assistant to the chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and interim vice chancellor of commercialization and economic development. Her award recognizes Cone’s dedication and commitment to fostering entrepreneurship across higher education, wrote Raj Melville, chair of the awards committee and executive director of the Deshpande Foundation.

“As a thought leader, she has helped inspire hundreds of institutions worldwide to adopt entrepreneurial activities on their campuses,” Melville wrote. “At UNC, she has helped strengthen the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship across the campus. Beyond that she has helped build coalitions across institutions and geographies to strengthen the economic fabric of local communities.”

Cone began her support of UNC’s entrepreneurship programming in 2004, when the University was awarded a grant to promote entrepreneurship across the University from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she then served as vice president for emerging strategies and entrepreneurship. Since 2009, she has led UNC’s Innovation Roadmap strategy, designed to strengthen the environment to enable innovators to launch solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

UNC received the university award as an overall leader in entrepreneurial education for “its strong overall commitment to building innovative educational courses and programs as well as student engagement at many levels that foster entrepreneurship across an institution,” Melville wrote.

More than 3,000 UNC students annually enroll in entrepreneurship courses or participate in workshops, hackathons, startup weekends and other activities sponsored by one of many entrepreneurship programs on campus. Last year, the University launched and tested nearly 50 student social, commercial and artistic startups in one of the campus’s incubator or venture-creation programs.

Carolina “has worked across the university with curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular programs that engage faculty and students in innovative and entrepreneurial activities,” Melville wrote. “The results are an example to others of what the 21st century university will look like.”

Giving students an opportunity to develop an entrepreneurial skillset and mindset is key for Cone. “If we can give all our students the skills and experience to become central actors in shaping the world around them, with grounding in proven methodologies for taking an idea to impact, we will help transform the social and economic future of our communities and our world,” she said.

The Deshpande Foundation encourages the use of entrepreneurship and innovation as catalysts for sustainable change in the U.S., India and Canada. Each year, more than 300 attendees from nearly 100 colleges, universities and institutions come together to network, share and learn from each other.


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