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University recognized for excellence in entrepreneurship

Ryerson honoured with Entrepreneurial University Award at the Deshpande Symposium Awards
By: Will Sloan
June 16, 2017
Deshpande Symposium Awards

Photo: From left, event organizer Steven Tello; emcee Deborah Hoover; Ryerson University's Richard Lachman; Prof. Kenneth Grant; DMZ's Abdullah Snobar; and tech entrepreneur Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande. Photo credit: Tory Germann for UMass Lowell.

Ryerson prides itself in having entrepreneurship in its DNA. That holistic approach was celebrated on June 13, when Ryerson received the Entrepreneurial University Award at the external,Deshpande Symposium Awards.

The award recognizes institutions that integrate entrepreneurial education into their strategic plan, in the curriculum and through student engagement more broadly. It was presented as part of the external,Deshpande Symposium for Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Higher Education—an annual conference of academics, policy planners, and practitioners held June 12-14 at the external,University of Massachusetts Lowell. Cornell University and Northeastern University were the other two finalists. Through their Deshpande Foundation, Gururaj (Desh) and Jaishree Deshpande have encouraged use of innovation and entrepreneurship as catalysts for social change in Canada, the U.S. and India since 1996.

“Ryerson has had a coherent set of programs across the university: the Ted Rogers School of Management, the external,DMZ, external,Zone Learning, and the student groups,” said Richard Lachman, director of Zone Learning. “The award is looking at how all of these initiatives across the university are working together to encourage entrepreneurship, and Ryerson is a great example of all these different kinds of groups coming together.”

“It’s broadly embraced across the campus,” said Kenneth Grant, chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy at TRSM. “We don’t treat entrepreneurship and innovation as something that somebody owns. It’s open and inclusive: you don’t have to be a university student or faculty member to be in one of our zones, for example.

“We have opportunities like the external,Sandbox that allow anyone—high school students, whatever—to register and explore entrepreneurship,” Grant continued. “We also have leading innovators like the DMZ, and Canada’s largest and most significant entrepreneurship academic program. This award recognizes that we are amongst the leaders.”

Ryerson offers 75+ entrepreneurship courses to almost 6,000 students each year. In addition, Ryerson houses 10 on-campus incubators hosting more than 320 startups; external,Startup School, a bridge between structured teaching and practical entrepreneurship; two dedicated entrepreneurship research units, the external,Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship and the Entrepreneurship Research Institute; and a range of awards and grand competitions, including the Norman Esch Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship Awards.

What is Ryerson’s entrepreneurial philosophy? “It’s about community engagement—engaging in real-world problems,” said Lachman. “We also talk about a ‘bias to action’—being able to have deep, empathetic understanding of people and problems, and working with groups to create solutions that we can roll out into the real world.”