Citing a new Design Studio that looks “more like an industrial workshop or art studio than a classroom,” Bloomberg Businessweek recently ranked the Mason School’s Undergraduate Business Program first in the nation for marketing. Another innovative feature of the Mason School’s approach this year included SEcon 2013: the Forum for Revolutionary Thinking, which focused on real-world examples of how businesses and nonprofits use core strengths, values and people to help solve tough problems.
A Center for Entrepreneurship
The Social Entrepreneurship Conference (SECon) is an event born out of the recently created Alan B. Miller Entrepreneurship Center. The mission of the Center is to fuel entrepreneurial ambition.
“The Center raises the profile of the College and is looked to as a place entrepreneurs and Millennials can turn to for assistance,” said Ron Monark ’61, managing director of the Center. “It has innovative programs for students and entrepreneurs in the community.” In addition to SEcon, the Miller Entrepreneurship Center runs the Historic Triangle Business Incubator, which includes the City of Williamsburg, James City County and York County. The Center helps get new businesses off the ground, hosts a business plan competition for students and offers field consultancies to companies to analyze their business plans and propose solutions — to name a few of the Center’s functions.
Innovative endeavors are not limited to the Mason School. William & Mary has launched a number of initiatives to promote innovation in academic and business processes to seek new revenues and to reallocate resources to highest priorities.
Now in its second year, the Creative Adaptation Fund offers a total of $200,000 annually for three years “to engage and unleash the creative energy in the academic areas to develop creative adaptations that improve the quality of our educational programs either directly or indirectly, by reducing costs or generating new revenues and thereby providing funds that can be reinvested in people and programs,” according to a memo Provost Michael R. Halleran sent to faculty in November 2011.
Among four winners announced in 2013, a Creative Adaptation by professors Stuart Hamilton and John Swaddle proposed exporting the geographic information systems (GIS) revolution that has been occurring on William & Mary’s campus. They recommended offering graduate GIS studies in the Northern Virginia and Washington area, where there is a demand for trained GIS professionals.
Hamilton, who is William & Mary’s GIS program director, and Swaddle, a professor of biology, note that the GIS graduate certificate program will provide a positive income stream for the university and strengthen the William & Mary presence in the Washington metro area.
“As William & Mary has such strong brand recognition in Northern Virginia and D.C., we do not anticipate any problems in attracting a strong applicant pool,” the proposal read.
This issue of Ringing Far & Near focuses on William & Mary’s strengths in innovative and entrepreneurial endeavors. I hope you will take a moment to read about some of the truly fascinating work that is occurring at the university. Often, these findings lead to real-world solutions of challenging problems.
Going forward, the university must secure increased support for our faculty and students as they develop new ideas and take risks often required to realize true progress.
Matthew T. Lambert ’99
Vice President for University Development
Collaborating to address the global problem of crop loss to birds, Hinders and Swaddle are perfecting a robot-like “sonic net” device that emits a carefully controlled, narrow beam of sound to disrupt avian communication, particularly among flocking birds. “If the birds can’t hear each other, then they can’t share any information about where the food is or where predators are,” Swaddle explained. Millions of tons of food are lost each year to hungry birds. “If you stop [the communication], the birds will just move on.” Dick Ash, clinical professor of entrepreneurship and private equity, and a team of student consultants from the Alan B. Miller Entrepreneurship Center are also working on this project to determine the commercialization possibilities and the intellectual properties.
Mark Hinders / Professor of applied science
John Swaddle / Professor of biology
The number of solar panels in William & Mary’s proposed EcoVillage. The energy-efficient residential project, which already has garnered support from Dominion Virginia Power and The Dominion Foundation, will require $5.7 million in private support.
Particle physicists from across the globe converged on William & Mary for NuFact 2012, an international conference co-hosted by Jefferson Lab on key advancements with subatomic particles called neutrinos, including future development of an accelerator called a neutrino factory.
Courtroom21, the world's most technologically advanced courtroom, is located within the William & Mary Law School. A court reporter, using a stenographer mask during this mock trial, repeats each word that participants say. Her voice, via writing, appears as text in court and can be streamed online. In this instance, three judges participate from various remote locations.
The second annual Social Entrepreneurship Conference (SEcon), a forum for socially minded people held at the Mason School of Business, featured everyone from William & Mary students to corporate CEOs and philanthropic business leaders who exchanged ideas and discussed social entrepreneurship.
“The whole idea was, that within five years, we wanted William & Mary to be recognized as a major place for these conversations to happen,” said Ron Monark ’61, managing director of the Alan B. Miller Entrepreneurship Center at the Mason School of Business.
SEcon 2013 drew 275 participants and featured an impressive group of panelists, including Michael Elliott, president and CEO of the grassroots, global anti-poverty organization ONE, and Neville Isdell, former chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Co. Isdell has called for companies to practice “connected capitalism,” linking their bottom lines to a social conscience.
“We’ve established a footprint we can build into,” Monark said. “This forum will showcase some real success stories and open some people’s eyes about what can be done.”
“Fusion is a safe, carbon free energy option that can provide reliable and large amounts of electricity. More economical fusion-generated electricity is achievable, but more work — and funding — must become available to realize its potential. The U.S. Department of Energy grant I received is significant for a young faculty member and it will allow me to further my research on fusion energy right here at William & Mary.”
Saskia Mordijck / Assistant Research Professor, Computer Science
“I never expected that my idea for an early warning and disaster management system in the Philippines, where I am from, would take off as it has. But after working with a team of three other students in my Social Entrepreneurship class, and winning $9,000 seed money at the SEcon 2012 conference at the Mason School of Business, things have really taken off. I met with stakeholders and mayors in the Philippines who are eager to pilot it. There’s a lot of enthusiasm. William & Mary is what gave this project fire and life. It wouldn’t have been possible without the wonderful support of my professors and people at William & Mary.”
Pat Austria ’13 / Creator,The Lunas Project, a technology-based system to help with rescue and relief efforts during disasters
How does William & Mary, a ranking liberal arts institution, fit into the notion of innovation and entrepreneurship?
No form of higher education is better at producing people who can both compete and cooperate in innovative ways than the study of liberal arts. This is especially true when it is done in the very thoughtful way we do it at William & Mary. Here, students in every area of study are taught to question everything. These are some of the essential questions that confront every innovator and every entrepreneur, no matter if his or her company makes electric cars or launch vehicles, provides networks for social connections, or designs clothing or novel forms of cuisine.
How does William & Mary nurture innovative and entrepreneurial potential among its students?
A good university operates as a think tank where new knowledge and ideas are generated on a daily basis. That can only happen when old knowledge is preserved, compartmentalized and examined carefully in order to derive a systematic understanding of the connections between the enormous number of “facts” in the world. Most of this new knowledge, the core of all innovation, is best uncovered by hands-on independent work — what we call research. Grants and private gifts from alumni and friends play a critical role in bringing great research ideas to fruition.
How long has William & Mary been involved with innovation?
Making connections is the very heart of innovation, and William & Mary has been doing that since 1693. The entrepreneurs we are training today will help us to refine these forms and keep them vibrant and useful for the future.
The STEM Education Alliance, which includes the William & Mary School of Education, provides training, materials, summer academies and collaborative opportunities for teachers and professional engineers and scientists to instruct and interest students in science, technology, engineering and math careers.
The amount USAID extended to AidData, a collaborative effort that includes William & Mary and several other institutions. AidData, which grew from a William & Mary undergraduate research project, collects and shares information on international development funding.