Rebranded Tufts Entrepreneurship Center offers expanded programming

Jack Derby, director of the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center, poses for a portrait in the Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex at 574 Boston Ave. on March 7, 2018. Rachel Hartman / The Tufts Daily Archives

The Tufts Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies program was rebranded as the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center (TEC) over the summer to reflect its updated programming and new focus under TEC Director Jack Derby.

The new name is meant to clarify TEC’s mission to train innovative students and provide them with the resources to start their own companies. The center hopes to entice more students to consider an entrepreneurship minor, which is the university’s largest minor.

I think the main intention behind this shift was to clarify the intention of the program and make the nomenclature of the department more approachable,” Jack Ohringer, a junior on the Tufts Entrepreneurs Society (TES) executive board, told the Daily in an email.

According to Derby, the name change is more than just cosmetic; it comes with revamped events and a more interactive focus for the program.

“If all we did was teach and didn’t give students an opportunity to practice, engage and compete, then it wouldn’t be as meaningful,” Derby said.

To kick off the year, TEC hosted a social at Tamper Cafe with entrepreneur Sarah Lockwood (LA ’13). Lockwood is the founder of College Outside, a startup that connects outdoor equipment brands to college outing clubs and outdoor education programs. The event allowed Tufts students to speak with Lockwood and to interact with TEC faculty and staff, as well as each other.

Senior Alex Wulkan, co-director of TES, said that the social was a great success and that there is demonstrated student interest in TEC’s new direction.

“I don’t think I’ve seen that many people at the Tamper event before,” Wulkan said. “[It was] great networking, great to meet everybody that’s new [and] great to reconnect with the professors. There was a general sense of … community building for entrepreneurship.”

One prominent addition to TEC is the new Jumbo Cafés initiative, which gives students an opportunity to discuss and develop their ideas over pizza with TEC faculty, advisory board members and alumni. According to TEC’s website, there are five Jumbo Cafés scheduled for this semester. The sessions are designed to be very personal, as young entrepreneurs can discuss topics of their choice.

Derby is particularly excited about the upcoming Founder Workshop, scheduled for Oct. 19–20. This edition of the workshop will feature billionaire philanthropist and Tufts alum Bill Cummings (LA ’58). Cummings, according to promotional materials for the event, is a “serial entrepreneur,” having started numerous successful companies.

Following an introduction by Cummings, students will have an opportunity to further develop their startup ideas and hear from a number of experts on the topic, according to Derby. The hope is for students to flesh out any entrepreneurial ideas they may have.

“We have teachers teaching stuff, but if you really want to come in and get your fingers dirty, you [should] come to the workshop,” he said.

Much of TEC’s programming relies on strong alumni support. Wulkan emphasized that connections with university alumni, particularly TEC alums, remain very robust.

“There is a fantastic connection with alumni. Our problem is that we probably don’t reach out to them enough,” Wulkan said. “When we send out requests for mentors to come in [and] for judges to come in, we are overwhelmed by the response we get.”

With the TEC’s rebranding and new programming, Derby hopes to further integrate the center with Tufts’ undergraduate and graduate schools and eventually, Greater Boston’s entrepreneur community.

“I want to make sure that we are very strong within the 10 [schools], and then we’ll worry about the Boston ecosystem,” Derby said.