Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Cone, Carolina recognized by Deshpande Foundation for excellence in entrepreneurship

The award recognizes a Carolina administrator's dedication and commitment to fostering entrepreneurship across higher education.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a top administrator each received high honors at the fourth annual Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education on June 10 in Lowell, Massachusetts.

The Deshpande Foundation’s “Deshpande Symposium Awards” recognized Judith Cone with the Outstanding Contributions to Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Higher Education Award and UNC-Chapel Hill 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.”

Cone serves as the special assistant to the chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and interim vice chancellor of commercialization and economic development. The 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, in a letter notifying UNC-Chapel Hill of the awards.

“As a thought leader, she has helped inspire hundreds of institutions worldwide to adopt entrepreneurial activities on their campuses. At UNC, she has helped strengthen the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship across the campus,” wrote Melville. “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-Chapel Hill’s entrepreneurship programming in 2004 when the University was awarded a significant grant to promote entrepreneurship across the university from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she served as then vice president for emerging strategies and entrepreneurship. Since 2009, she has led UNC-Chapel Hill’s Innovation Roadmap strategy for strengthening an ecosystem where innovators launch solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

UNC-Chapel Hill 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,” wrote Melville.

More than 3,000 UNC-Chapel Hill 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.

“UNC-Chapel Hill 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 United States, India and Canada. Each year more than 300 attendees from nearly a hundred different colleges, universities and institutions come together to network, share and learn from each other.