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Published March 12, 2019
Not many projects bring deans from law, engineering and business together like the University of Wyoming’s new Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE).
While the IIE involves every college, these three deans -- David Sprott from the College of Business, Michael Pishko from the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and Klint Alexander from the College of Law -- have taken an especially active role in the partnership.
The deans share in the IIE’s vision. Wyoming’s wide-open frontiers are home to outside thinkers hungry for a challenge. They share a spirit of adventure, restless curiosity and wonder. The world needs more cowboys, and UW’s IIE calls on innovators from throughout the state as it works to instill entrepreneurial thinking to empower the leaders of tomorrow. Adding needed programs and curriculum that draw together all UW colleges, business services and entrepreneurship competitions, the IIE serves as the university’s front door for the state’s entrepreneurs.
The motivation for creating the IIE was twofold, says Pishko, one of the architects of the institute.
“Students benefit from having an entrepreneurial mindset. No matter what discipline you’re in or what career you do, having an entrepreneurial mindset really benefits you,” he says. “The second part is that the university has an obligation to the state to be a driver for economic development and diversification. The goal of the IIE is to blend those two things together and give students the opportunity to work with faculty and entrepreneurs to think about creating new businesses, to begin to move those businesses forward and to understand that process. It’s also about helping those within our state who have business concepts and want to move them forward -- we can provide them with the manpower and expertise to be able to do that.”
Sprott joined UW in 2018 from Washington State University and says the cross-campus collaborations set UW’s initiative apart from other universities.
“To come here and see everyone in the same room from the beginning -- saying, ‘Let’s do this together and figure out what’s best for the institution’ -- reflects the best things about being interdisciplinary,” Sprott says. “To me, that’s a really big strength.”
He appreciates that the IIE will not only instill an entrepreneurial mindset, but also give College of Business students direct experience with starting businesses and helping state innovators bring their ideas to fruition.
In the College of Law, an entrepreneurship and intellectual property practicum launched this fall. The practicum aims to provide hands-on learning for law students interested in areas of intellectual property and business creation. This new practicum joins clinics in civil legal services, defender aid, family and child legal advocacy, international human rights, prosecution and energy/environment/natural resources. In addition to the practicum, an assortment of diverse and exciting curricular options is under development for all UW students, including a revamped cross-campus entrepreneurship minor.
“I think universities that are prudent will find ways to collaborate across campus,” Alexander says. “I think this is a great way for us to focus on Wyoming and the role of UW in generating economic development in the state. It brings together the unit heads to collaborate and create a program to help facilitate a critical part of our mission.”