By Jared Marchant ’13
Increasing numbers of Lawrence alumni have re-engaged with the university in recent years. One specific program that has benefited immensely from alumni re-engagement of this sort is the Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E) initiative, which is now in its fifth year. Assistant Professor of Economics Adam Galambos is spearheading this initiative with the involvement of numerous faculty drawn from across campus. The program is designed to incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship into the university and Department of Economics curriculums, respectively.
Galambos is particularly eager to involve alumni whose various career efforts have given them deep insight into the pursuit of innovation and entrepreneurship. “We believe that the study of innovation and entrepreneurship is in perfect harmony with the goals of a liberal education,” said Galambos. “It is increasingly clear that many Lawrentians have successfully used their liberal educations as foundations for entrepreneurial pursuits, and we are extremely pleased to bring these graduates back to campus to share their broad range of experience with current students. These alumni bring great expertise, and they are pleased to give students the perspective and the advice they wish they had had in their student days. They show by example that the linkages between
a liberal education and a life in entrepreneurship are real, and that entrepreneurship can be the route both to a full and satisfying life and to becoming an agent of positive change in society.”
Several highly accomplished alumni returned to campus this year to participate in the I&E initiative as well as various other university offerings. These individuals included Thomas Baer ’74, executive director of the Stanford Photonics Research Center and recent president of the Optical Society of America; Jeffrey Royer ’77, director of Shaw Communications; Dave Mitchell ’87, founder of Connected Bits, a Boston-area software company; Cynthia Figge ’77, co-founder of CSRHub.com; and Abir Sen ’97, CEO of Bloom Health. Each of these highly successful Lawrence graduates contributed two days of their time to speak to classes, provide well-informed feedback and constructive criticism to student venture groups, and interact with students informally over lunch or dinner. The lectures that these individuals delivered to classes covered what it means to be entrepreneurial, how one develops an entrepreneurial perspective as a businessperson, the importance of being an effective communicator, and the ethics involved in entrepreneurial endeavors—all topics these alumni encounter frequently in the course of their professional work.
The practice of involving successful alumni in the I&E initiative is critical to its success. The alumni who are invited back have addressed significant problems in the world and used their knowledge, expertise and liberal arts education to help solve these problems as entrepreneurs. The successes and experiences that these alumni have accumulated provide inspiration for current Lawrence students.
Pablo Galvan ’14, an economics major, completed the course In Pursuit of Innovation and found the experience extremely inspiring. He is quick to credit the returning alumni as providing a “fresh angle” from which to examine entrepreneurship at Lawrence and how it relates to both economics and other fields of study. “[The alumni] seem really excited to come back and share their experiences and expertise with us, partly because they received comparatively little of this sort of advice when they were here,” Galvan said. ”I learned a great deal from their visits, and I know that they were pleased to contribute to Lawrence after being away for a number of years.”
When asked why alumni like Baer, Royer, Mitchell, Figge and Sen come back, Galambos said, “They often emphasize that their passion for what they do is their primary motivator. When they see how passionately students talk about their own ideas, they realize that they are giving those students the tools they need to pursue their own dreams. Having that kind of impact is truly energizing.”