For the second year in a row, six professors from Romania are spending the fall semester on the River Campus as visiting faculty at the University’s Ain Center for Entrepreneurship. By the end of the three-year Romanian Faculty Scholars Program, 18 professors from the eastern European nation will have had the chance to observe all aspects of the center’s initiatives, take classes, meet business leaders, and return home to incorporate what they’ve learned into their own programs.
The Romanian Professor Entrepreneurship Education and Networking Program is funded by the Romanian-American Foundation and conducted in partnership with the Fulbright Commission. The Ain Center was chosen in 2016 as the host site by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), which managed the application and selection process on behalf of the Romanian-American Foundation. Fifteen schools applied, and Rochester was the only one chosen.
The Ain Center is named in recognition of Mark Ain ‘67S (MBA) and his wife, Carolyn, for their long-established leadership and support of entrepreneurialism across the University. The center developed a strategic plan for entrepreneurship spanning 2015 to 2020. One of the four proposed goals is to focus on improving the national and international reputation of the University’s entrepreneurial initiative.
Rochester also hosted the International Conference of the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers in fall 2016. The conference set a record with nearly 450 attendees from 14 countries and 214 universities.
“I’m very excited to welcome the second cohort of Romanian faculty to Rochester,” says Duncan Moore ’74 (PhD), vice provost for entrepreneurship, director of the center, and the Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake Professor in Optical Engineering Science. “The visiting faculty, all with expertise in technical or business disciplines, are particularly interested in observing the University’s NSF I-Corps programming. I-Corps teams receive training on the customer discovery process and business model canvas iteration, ultimately determining the market potential of a technology. The faculty can apply this co-curricular approach when they return to their universities in Romania.”
Natalie Antal ‘11S (MS), the Ain Center’s associate director, says the center was selected because it houses an established, University-wide, interdisciplinary entrepreneurship initiative, and the socioeconomic climate and size of the Rochester region are comparable to areas where the visiting Romanians teach. The visiting faculty also have expertise in STEM fields, and the University is recognized as a leader in its technical entrepreneurship offerings.
Mihai Dragomir, an associate professor of design engineering and robotics at Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, who is among this year’s group of visiting faculty, appreciates that the Ain Center is connected with big and small companies, both locally and nationally.
“Initiatives and ideas move faster, the students have more opportunities, and new and creative ideas can quickly reach the market,” he says.
Alma Pentescu, a teaching assistant and marketing PhD at Lucian Blaga University in Sibiu, says her experience at the Ain Center will be valuable in helping her school achieve its goals to become “focused on students’ and society’s needs, and relevant in terms of national and international research.”
“There’s a lot of experience here,” she says. “It’s something we don’t have much of back home.”
This year’s participants have completed an orientation for the Technical Entrepreneurship and Management (TEAM) MS program, and are taking the courses Screening Technical Opportunities and Economics, Marketing, and Strategy Primer for Entrepreneurs. In addition, they’re attending classes related to their teaching fields, which range from data science and computer science to mechanical engineering and optics.
They’ve explored the wider University and region, attending iZone events, as well as meetings with the Rochester Angel Network and the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. They’ve taken a cruise on the Erie Canal, visited Niagara Falls, and will visit innovation hubs in Boston and Washington, D.C. Later in the semester, they’ll attend the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
All six live in an apartment complex in Henrietta, a suburb near the River Campus.
“We are in contact all the time with both faculty and students,” Dragomir says. “We like the atmosphere here. We like how the students collaborate. We like the diversity—of people and ideas.”
“The Ain Center not only teaches the values and skills associated with innovation, leadership, and problem-solving, but it places these values into practice every day,” says Jane Gatewood, the University’s vice provost for global engagement. “Being chosen to receive the scholars clearly demonstrates the Ain Center’s standing as a thought leader.”