Think beyond the possible: University gains national recognition for entrepreneurship

A student speaks at a table of peers and mentors
Character Studies LLC
ThinkEnergy Fellow and chemical engineering major Akissi Yao shares her idea at the first annual Speed Mentoring Event, which took place in September during CWRU Innovation Week.

Case Western Reserve University is making national waves in entrepreneurship. 

Recently, the university debuted in the Entrepreneurship category in the U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” list for 2024 at #34 in the country.

A few days before that, alumni startup CLEANR, which is developing a filtration system that removes microplastics from washing machine wastewater, was called out as one of the “coolest and craziest new tech” exhibits at IFA Berlin by CNN. 

The headlines are clear: Case Western Reserve University is a place where ideas turn into action.

A Debut Ranking

The Entrepreneurship category in the U.S. News & World Report rankings is not new, but CWRU's debut is.  

So, what exactly changed at the school to move the needle?

One contributing factor has been its commitment to support the growth and education of entrepreneurs on campus.

In order to provide increased support to its entrepreneurial ecosystem, CWRU launched the Veale Institute for Entrepreneurship in 2019 with a generous $20 million donation from the Veale Foundation. Based on the 7th floor of Sears think[box]—the largest open access makerspace in the U.S.—the Veale Institute provides hands-on experiences to elevate the role of entrepreneurship on campus for students, faculty, alumni, and staff. 

With a total of six full-time staff members, including the addition of the CWRU LaunchNET team in July 2023, the Veale Institute provides programming and mentorship for students with an interest in entrepreneurship. Structurally, it sits centrally within the Office of the Provost, which allows for more seamless cross-collaboration with school partners including Weatherhead School of Management; Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing; Case School of Engineering; College of Arts and Sciences; School of Medicine; School of Dental Medicine; Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences; and School of Law.

Entrepreneurship at CWRU has exponentially grown, and along with it, many students, faculty, and staff have been able to more effectively access resources and experiences that have contributed to their growth as founders and thought leaders.

And the stories and successes from these individuals is what brought CWRU Entrepreneurship into the national spotlight.

Learning by Doing

Third-year biomedical engineering major Evelin Urbancsok is learning about entrepreneurship by wearing an investor hat. 

Urbanscok was a member of the founding cohort of the Veale Snyder Fellows, a fellowship program designed to support undergraduates interested in entrepreneurship, and PRISE (Program Rewarding Innovation in STEM Entrepreneurship) in 2022-2023. With help from the Veale Institute, she landed a coveted summer internship in venture capital at University Hospital Ventures in Cleveland.

As a leader in the CWRU chapter of the Northeast Ohio Student Venture Fund (NEOSVF), Urbancsok has also capitalized on numerous opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship with a focus on venture capital. In Spring 2023, she participated on the CWRU team at the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) which took third place in the Midwest Region. Her interest in venture capital continued as she became one of the inaugural student fellows with the newly founded CWRU Alumni Venture Fund, which has made eight investments to date in alumni ventures such as VitalXchange, Deciduous Therapeutics, and Wildxyz.

While Urbancsok is not a founder herself, many individuals at CWRU are starting businesses. Recently announced were ten finalists in the 17th Annual Best of Tech awards organized by the Greater Cleveland Partnership, who represent student, alumni or faculty ventures from CWRU. Each year, a handful of ventures are awarded prizes at the CWRU Morgenthaler-Pavey Startup Competition. And every day, CWRU-founded companies are making a difference in the world.

At Case Western Reserve, curiosity can quickly turn into hands-on experience.

Teaching by Example

Students at Case Western also have rich opportunities to experience entrepreneurship inside the classroom. CWRU’s Weatherhead School of Management offers the opportunity to pursue an Entrepreneurship minor or concentration, as well as an array of cutting-edge entrepreneurship courses including Business Model Design and Innovation, Entrepreneurship and the Good Life and Entrepreneurial Strategy. The Veale Snyder Fellows program includes the Global Technology Leadership course and class treks to Silicon Valley and abroad.

But entrepreneurship is not just a path for the students. At CWRU, faculty are often teaching entrepreneurship by example.

The Veale Institute’s AI Speaker Series, curated by CWRU alum and former Chief Technology Officer of Etsy, Mike Fisher, spotlighted CWRU faculty experts in artificial intelligence as it relates to the study of law, dentistry, art history and medicine, amongst other topics. Through this speaker series, as well as the Entrepreneurship Speaker Series and Skills Labs, the Veale Institute invites hundreds of professionals in a wide range of fields to come to campus or speak virtually with the community at Case Western. This almost constant influx of entrepreneurs and executives offers exposure in a variety of conversations relating to entrepreneurship.

Dr. Kathryn Daltorio, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Case School of Engineering, was a Veale Faculty Fellow in the 2022-2023 school year. In her classroom—the Crab Lab, as she calls it—she is constructing biomedically engineered crab robots that can safely obtain harmful objects underwater, such as unexploded IEDs, with the help of student technicians. Outside the classroom, she has co-founded CrabLine Robotics LLC with CWRU Entrepreneur in Residence Carla Macklin.

Daltorio’s ongoing entrepreneurial journey from research to commercialization is one example of the type of story that many faculty members share at CWRU.

As an undergraduate student, being surrounded by innovations like these while studying is an incomparable experience.

Finding Entrepreneurship at CWRU

Whether you’re standing in the makerspace at the Sears think[box] getting ready to 3D print a violin, walking into a classroom at Weatherhead School of Management to learn about entrepreneurial finance, attending signature events like Innovation Week and the Morgenthaler-Pavey Startup Competition or assisting a faculty member on their patented crab robotics, there is a good chance you will experience entrepreneurship at CWRU.

Innovation comes with the territory of being an esteemed research institution, but the way in which new ideas and thinking outside the box are embraced on campus is a special thing. 

In fact, that thought is written in bold on the university’s homepage:

“At Case Western Reserve University, we think big. But we don't just think, we do. On campus and around the world, we explore and discover, engage and invent.

“Most of all, we make a difference—especially when it appears impossible.”