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Venture Mentoring Service wins award

MIT program harnesses knowledge and experience of volunteer alumni and business leaders to help prospective entrepreneurs.

The National Consortium for Continuous Improvement in Higher Education (NCCI) has awarded its 2010 Leveraging Excellence Award to MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service. The award, sponsored by the Follett Higher Education Group, will be officially presented in July at NCCI’s annual conference in San Francisco.

“While many award programs focus on innovation and improvement, the NCCI award recognizes active leveraging for greater impact of projects that are on the frontier of expanding excellence in higher education. The NCCI award winners have cultivated improvements beyond the initial implementation of an innovative practice,” said University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd, Jr., chair of the judging panel.

The VMS program harnesses the knowledge and experience of volunteer alumni and other business leaders to help prospective entrepreneurs in the university community bring their ideas and inventions to market. Entrepreneurs receive practical education through a hands-on, team mentoring process that builds a trusted long-term relationship. This experiential learning increases the innovation output of the institution through greater commercialization of ideas and university technologies.

The program’s services are offered without charge to MIT students, alumni, faculty and staff who are considering the possibility of starting a new company. Entrepreneurs often come to VMS at very early stages in their idea process — usually before there is a business plan, a strategy and revenue model, a team, or any funding. VMS doesn’t screen to pick winners; rather, VMS’s mission is to use any plausible idea as the focus for practical education on the venture creation process.

Innovate VMS of St. Louis is one of nearly a dozen similar programs around the country that MIT has helped start. Pete Peters, executive director of the St. Louis organization, said his program began with five ventures in 2007 and is now up to 82. It started with 18 mentors and now has 120 mentors. “We could not have done this without help from MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service,” Peters said, noting that MIT shared all of its documentation and processes with Innovate VMS of St. Louis to help get it off the ground.

In addition to Todd, the panel of judges included Ronald A. Crutcher, president, Wheaton College (Massachusetts); Susan Jurow, senior vice president, professional development and communications, National Association of College and University Business Officers; Mohammad H. Qayoumi, president, California State University, East Bay; and Reginald Robinson, president & CEO, Kansas Board of Regents.

NCCI also awarded a 2010 Leveraging Excellence Award to Kuali, an innovative collaboration for building open-source administrative software for a community of universities.

NCCI represents a wide range of member institutions, with many individuals working in organizational development, quality assessment, planning, and institutional improvement. Its programs promote sharing best practices and supporting professional development of individual members.

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