Published: Dec. 1, 2016 By


Entrepreneurial Spirit 

You said in your annual state of the campus speech this fall that CU Boulder is becoming known as an entrepreneurship university, where you are developing graduates with entrepreneurial and creative problem-solving mindsets. What do you mean by that?

Forbes recently ranked us No. 18 among national universities for entrepreneurship, but more important is that we are establishing an entrepreneurial culture across the entire campus, in all disciplines. That sounds good on paper, but our students, graduates and employees are continually demonstrating it.

How are they demonstrating this entrepreneurial mindset?

I’m very proud of Maithreyi Gopalakrishnan (EngrPhys, MApPhys’16) [see page 21], who founded a company to create affordable hybrid electric motors to replace purely gas-powered rickshaws in her native India, with the goal of reducing massive pollution and high-priced fuel for operators who can’t afford to educate their children. Her team includes students from other majors around campus. They are using knowledge gained at CU to change lives and transform a society.

Are there other examples?

Many, and here’s one outside the realm of business — Christine Lehnertz (EPOBio’85) [see page 15], became superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park over the summer, the park’s first female superintendent. During the 100th anniversary of the national  parks this year we’ve all read that these treasures are challenged by resources, aging infrastructure and great popularity. Christine has a track record of innovative problem solving that put her in this challenging position. Whether it’s today or 30 years ago, engineering or biology, our graduates are in a position to make a difference.

What do you attribute that success to?

Entrepreneurship and problem solving are important ways of life here. It is not just an academic discipline, but a way of thinking by students, faculty and staff in all disciplines — from the hard sciences to the arts.

You’ve been on campus for 43 years. How has the meaning of entrepreneurship changed?

The old definition of entrepreneurship was restricted to business schools, but entrepreneurship is a valuable life skill that can help students succeed in any career or endeavor. On our campus, it’s embedded in every academic course of study today. In fact, our certificate in music entrepreneurship is the first of its kind in the country. 

Illustration by Melinda Josie