UConn’s Werth Institute Recognized for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education

Not even four years old, the Werth Institute is already being recognized as an innovator in the field

A view at dusk of the Peter J. Werth Residence Tower on Jan. 14, 2021.

Astou Diallo '23 Diallo actually decided to attend UConn because of the entrepreneurial opportunities that The Werth Institute offers students. (Peter Morenus/UConn photo)

From business to nutritional sciences, engineering to the arts, the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has distinguished itself as a dynamic and multidisciplinary environment where all UConn students can find an opportunity to learn, connect, and innovate alongside their entrepreneurially minded peers and with the help of seasoned educators and mentors.

Now, after less than four years, The Werth Institute has been recognized for its unique, accessible, and broad-based approach to entrepreneurial education by the prestigious Deshpande Symposium, with the 2021 Award for Excellence in Curriculum Innovation in Entrepreneurship.

The Deshpande Symposium Award recognizes an institution that demonstrates exemplary commitment to, and success in, developing and offering innovative educational courses and programs that foster entrepreneurship education across the institution. The Werth Institute accepted the award on June 11 at the symposium’s 10th annual conference, held virtually.

“Entrepreneurship can be a change agent in business and academia,” says Werth Institute Director David Noble. “The Werth Institute helps students with an entrepreneurial spirit in the sciences, engineering, arts, and other areas of study specialties develop the business knowledge and connect with mentors who can help them to become ‘disruption ready,’ a sought after skill in today’s workplace. In just three years, The Werth Institute has become an integral part of the student experience and is key to UConn’s strategic direction.”

“The Werth Institute is a critical pillar in UConn’s drive to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset among its students,” says Carl Lejuez, UConn provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “This award is a noteworthy recognition of the institute’s efforts, and fuels UConn’s momentum as a leader in entrepreneurial education.”

Established in December 2017 thanks to an historic $22.5 million gift from philanthropist and entrepreneur Peter J. Werth, The Werth Institute brings together myriad programs that foster entrepreneurship and innovation – supporting ideas that potentially have commercial application and can be used to create new companies. In addition to nurturing innovation, the Institute facilitates programs, including entrepreneurship speaker forums, and hosts an entrepreneur-in-residence to instruct students.

“At The Werth Institute, we know it’s not enough to just copy best practices or duplicate the work of other institutions,” Noble says. “Entrepreneurship is so much bigger than a few startups – it’s an entire approach to school, to your career, and to life. This award validates UConn’s approach to using entrepreneurship as a platform to bring Life Transformative Education to our student body through increasingly exciting initiatives, and it’s testament to the ecosystem that Peter Werth, through his generosity, empowered us to build. And while it’s deeply gratifying to be recognized by national organizations, our primary mission will always be to support student dreams and aspirations – so watch out, because there’s so much yet to come!”

With over 60 programs ranging from a one-day conference to entire degree programs, and more than 100 active mentors, entrepreneurship permeates nearly every corner of UConn. The Werth Institute’s signature programs include:

  • NetWerx: This industry mentorship program builds bridges between current students and alumni through multiple mentorship engagement opportunities that center on the entrepreneurial mindset and career exploration within entrepreneurship, finance, technology, innovation, and related fields.
  • Werth Innovator Leadership Development Program (WILD): This group of student ambassadors for entrepreneurship and innovation at UConn play a central role in building interest and participation in our wide range of programs.
  • F3 Experience: This pilot program launched in 2020 to address the gender gap that exists in the business world when it comes to female-founded ventures. The program engages first-year undergraduate women with mentorship, networking, and resources to support their entrepreneurial journey at the University.

UConn’s entrepreneurship educational courses and The Werth Institute’s innovative and inclusive programming helped the University earn a Top 30 ranking for graduate entrepreneurship and maintain its Top 50 ranking for undergraduate entrepreneurship from the Princeton Review.

“The exceptional field of applicants this year made judging a challenge,” writes Raj Melville, executive director of the Deshpande Foundation and chair of the Deshpande Symposium Award Committee. “After careful consideration of the nominations received for this category, it was the opinion of the Awards Committee that the Werth Institute best exemplified the commitment to building innovative educational courses and programs that foster entrepreneurship education across an institution.”

Co-founded in 2012 by the Deshpande Foundation and the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education brings together academics, policy planners, and practitioners to discuss best practices in integrating entrepreneurship throughout their college and university communities. Its awards selection committee features a diverse panel from both the business and higher education communities.

For more information about The Werth Institute, visit entrepreneurship.uconn.edu.