Innovation and entrepreneurship center to give students, community a competitive advantage

October 30, 2018

President Olian stands talking to Jeff Tengel and Carlton Highsmith

The newly named People’s United Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship will give Quinnipiac students the guidance and tools needed to turn great ideas into viable business solutions. Students will have the opportunity to work with faculty and local businesses to help develop the ideas and the jobs that will lead the marketplace for decades.

“Entrepreneurial centers force people to think differently, to think without preconceptions and to turn things on their head,” Quinnipiac President Judy Olian told about 100 people who attended a reception at the center last week in the School of Business.

“The word is that 50 percent of jobs in 2030 do not exist today. So the coin of the realm, the name of the game in education, is adaptability, innovativeness and curiosity.”

It’s this shared mindset that fostered the partnership between Quinnipiac and People’s United Bank, according to People’s United President Jeff Tengel. The bank has $47 billion in assets, branches in six states and subsidiaries across the country.

“It’s about giving back to the community, and as we think about keeping jobs in Connecticut, we think this is a great way for us to try and achieve that goal,” Tengel said. “We really look forward to partnering with the university and helping the People’s United Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship be all that we think it can be.”

Fred McKinney, the Carlton Highsmith Chair for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and director of the People’s United Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, said he is eager to facilitate these relationships and work with the next generation of student entrepreneurs.

“It’s places like this that can generate the possibilities that we all see,” McKinney said. “We can make the change. We are the change.”

Highsmith, a prominent businessman, a longtime friend of the university and a member of the Board of Trustees, said he strongly believes in the values of hard work, entrepreneurship and innovation.

“I once read if you can become a successful entrepreneur, you can change the trajectory of your life forever,” Highsmith said.

“So I started a small business in a basement office in New Haven. Over the next 30 some-odd years, that business grew to become one of the largest minority-owned businesses in the country, driven primarily by innovation.”

People’s United Bank and Quinnipiac announced their 10-year, $10 million partnership in May. As part of the deal, People’s United donated $5 million to support the People’s United Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and the People’s United Center for Women & Business. Quinnipiac matched the $5 million donation and moved its university-wide banking to People’s. The Quinnipiac Sports Center, home of the university’s ice hockey and basketball programs, also was renamed the People’s United Center.

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