New Resource Aims to Foster Innovation and Entrepreneurship across Campus

Queens Campus Great Lawn in the summer
January 12, 2024

St. John’s University is establishing a new resource to rally students, faculty, administrators, staff, and members of the Queens, NY, community around a culture of entrepreneurship and collaboration.

The new Venture and Innovation Center (VIC) will help bring potentially transformative product ideas to life while providing students with enhanced experiential-learning opportunities and networking possibilities.

The University has tapped business consultant and professor of Management, Entrepreneurship, Consulting, and Operations (MECO) James M. Kinsley, M.B.A., as Director of the VIC. Mr. Kinsley, a native of Kent, England, said the VIC will serve as both a catalyst for inspiration and a tool for helping entrepreneurs who need funding.

“This heralds the beginning of what could be a significant new phase in St. John’s evolution,” Mr. Kinsley said. “When prospective students visit, we want to show them our ecosystem of world-class facilities and to demonstrate the educational value that arises out of an intracollegiate approach to innovation and entrepreneurship.”

St. John’s has long been committed to the support of entrepreneurship. Programs such as Pitch Johnny enable St. John’s students, and local high school entrepreneurs, to compete for business seed money. Students can likewise vie for as much as $5,000 in business aid in the annual James and Eileen Christmas Business Plan Competition and Pitch Event. Other initiatives include the Design Factory product inspiration center at The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies and the Global Loan Opportunities for Budding Entrepreneurs (GLOBE) student-managed lending program that assists entrepreneurs in the developing world. The Executive-in-Residence Program enables students to engage in business consulting with actual corporate and nonprofit organizations.

These programs and others will collaborate with the VIC and complement the University’s numerous academic programs in entrepreneurship and related disciplines. Undergraduate students in the Collins College of Professional Studies can minor in Entrepreneurship or Business Technology. Undergraduates in The Peter J. Tobin College of Business can major in Business Analytics. Graduate students in Tobin can pursue a Master of Business Administration degree in Entrepreneurship or a Master of Science degree in Global Management and Entrepreneurship. Also, the Global Entrepreneurship Development Program helps students cultivate business ideas and pitch them in collaboration with international partners at worldwide competitions.

Entrepreneurs, both internal and external, will be encouraged to present ideas to members of the VIC. Selected visionaries will be supported by mentoring and advisement, investment, and several potential profile-raising events at the University.

“The VIC is a key to centralizing the innovative capacity of our people,” said William D. Reisel, Ph.D., Professor, MECO, and Director, GLOBE. “It promotes campuswide entrepreneurial and innovative activities and exposes students and faculty to resources that help realize start-up goals and advance going concerns. It’s a collaborative home to facilitate innovation beyond what we see now.”

Among the components of the VIC will be a campuswide connections hub that promotes entrepreneurial collaboration across the University’s six Schools and Colleges and its world-class library, and a business incubator that identifies, manages, and helps to commercialize innovation ideas developed by members of the St. John’s community or its neighborhood partners.

The pillars of collaboration, entrepreneurship, and idea support will guide the VIC, according to Mr. Kinsley. The VIC will sponsor business start-up simulations, lunch-and-learn sessions, a speaker series, hackathons, and more to establish a more entrepreneurial culture. University community members can visit the center to share business ideas, ask for advice, and connect with essential partners.

“We are creating structures and creative pathways connecting our colleges,” Mr. Kinsley said. “One example is the synergy between the Collins College of Professional Studies and the Peter J. Tobin College of Business. Collins has many of the building blocks on the technology side for facilitating the development of a range of products from proof-of-idea through to prototyping. At the same time, Tobin can add value in complementary fields such as management, marketing, business analytics, and finance. Between the two Colleges, it will be a powerful collaboration, and one of many that can potentially take shape.”

The next step is establishing a formal advisory board that, working with Mr. Kinsley, will chart the VIC’s strategic direction.