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CTNext Adopts Plan to Strengthen Statewide Entrepreneurship and Innovation by Increasing Collaboration Among the State’s Higher Education Institutions

CTNext, Connecticut’s go-to resource for entrepreneurial support, today announced that the CTNext board of directors has formed a Higher Education Entrepreneurship Advisory Committee to implement the recommendations of the master plan developed by a working group composed of institution presidents and other high-ranking representatives from 35 higher education institutions across the state over the past six months.

Consisting of educators, serial entrepreneurs and active students, the newly formed Advisory Committee will begin working to operationalize the plan and deploy the available funds that will support the mission of the Higher Education Initiative, which is to foster collaboration within Connecticut’s public and private higher education system and ultimately strengthen innovation, entrepreneurship and the state’s economy.

“The state’s higher educational institutions have demonstrated their commitment to enhance the state’s innovation ecosystem, and great work is already under way,” said Glendowlyn Thames, Executive Director of CTNext. “That said, we will achieve so much more by improving collaboration among these institutions, not only to spark ideas but to incubate and support them and ultimately attract investment dollars that can transform a fledgling business into mature company that employs an educated workforce.”

“Connecticut’s higher education system is one of our state’s greatest assets,” added Joanne Berger Sweeney, President of Trinity College and Higher Education Working Group co-chair. “Both institutions and the state must now take a more proactive approach in order to capitalize on the collective power of the system to become an example to the world of the power of ingenuity.”

“The members of this advisory committee represent some of the best educators, leaders and students in higher education from across the state,” said CSCU President Mark Ojakian. “Connecticut has a legacy of amazing entrepreneurs, and one of the goals of the committee is to preserve that legacy by focusing on where many ideas develop – the classroom. Establishing this advisory committee is a good next step toward bringing more awareness to our mission and the great work that is currently being done.”

The Advisory Committee is made up of representatives from four public and private higher education institutions, Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) with experience working at higher education institutions within the state, active students and the Chamber of Commerce. The appointed members include:

  • James Boyle – Director, Yale Entrepreneurial Institute
  • Elena Cahill – Founder and EIR at University of Bridgeport
  • Ferenc Fazekas – Student, Quinnipiac School of Business
  • Jeff Godley – Commissioner, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and Board Member, Chamber of Commerce for Eastern CT
  • Chris Hamer – Founder and EIR at Fairfield University
  • Makaela Kingsley – Director, Wesleyan Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship
  • Randeka Maric – Vice President of Research, UConn
  • Vince Murphy – Board Member, Norwalk Community College Foundation
  • Michael Niastro – CEO and EIR at Central CT State University

The formation of the Advisory Board follows a six-month engagement by the Higher Education Entrepreneurship and Innovation Working Group consisting of mostly institutional presidents and other higher-ranking representatives from 35 higher education institutions who met on four separate occasions and conducted site visits with 18 campus leaders around the state. The Working Group ultimately created a master plan whose goals include establishing collaboration and partnerships, engaging in the 21st-century economy, educating an innovative workforce, and expanding infrastructure to support knowledge sharing and technology transfer across the state’s higher education system.

The Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting in late June to begin determining how best to allocate available funds to execute the plan.

About CTNext
CTNext is Connecticut’s go-to resource for entrepreneurial support. The goal of the program is to build a more robust community of entrepreneurs and to accelerate startup growth by providing access to talent, space, industry expertise, services, skill development and capital to foster innovation and create jobs for people in Connecticut. CTNext launched in 2012 and has more than 1,500 members in its network. To learn more, visit

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