The University of Massachusetts College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) has doubled its undergraduate enrollment in the past five years. The grad school grew that fast in just two years. It now boast 210 active Ph.D. students out of a total enrollment of over 1,600. Two major sponsors have recently pledged an additional $12 million in funding for the school. That money will fuel continued growth. The latest initiative at the CICS is its Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program, which the school asked me to help create.
I first began discussing an EIR program last summer with the new Dean, Dr. Laura Hass. After graduating from Harvard and The University of Texas at Austin, Laura spent most of the next 30 years at IBM Research in Almaden, California. It’s clear that her experience in the private sector resulted in a deep understanding of the importance entrepreneurship (Great hire, UMass!). In September, Brant Cheikes, Executive Director, Center for Data Science, pulled everything together by recruiting two more EIRs, Gavin Andresen (No, he hasn’t told me who Satoshi is…yet.) and Vikram Mahidhar. My impression from our recent EIR meeting: Wow. These folks are massively smart and accomplished but show no trace of arrogance (gotta love those techies). Saying that I’m in good company is a significant understatement. I’m both humbled and proud to be part of the team.
The EIRs will have regular office hours next semester, which will make it possible to students to meet with us to discuss their plans and needs. In the meantime, Steve Willis is going to bring the rest of us up to speed on the projects he’s already working on at the school. We’re going to hold a meet-up in February. We’re mostly planning to talk to people, learn their “pain points” (e.g., funding, training, intellectual property, etc.), and then try to figure out the best solutions for scaling the program. Kind of like what any competent start-up would do.