Trinity College has announced the opening of its new Center for Entrepreneurship, which will support the interests of students, faculty and alumni.
Sonia Cardenas, dean of faculty and vice president of academic affairs, said the center will be student-focused and encourage entrepreneurial thinking in its broadest sense.
“The Center for Entrepreneurship will provide all liberal arts majors, not just those interested in business or startups, with the confidence and know-how to turn ideas into action,” Cardenas said. “This aligns with our forward-looking Trinity Plus curriculum, which boldly combines the liberal arts with accompanying, experiential learning to prepare students for the future.” She added that liberal arts graduates already possess entrepreneurial qualities such as curiosity, flexibility and Learn resourcefulness and combine critical thinking with creative problem solving.
The Center for Entrepreneurship will also connect students and faculty with alumni and other world-class entrepreneurs and innovators. “It will increase Trinity’s visibility and allow us to more effectively collaborate with Hartford’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem – benefitting the city we call home and providing a graduate incentive to stay in Connecticut,” Cardenas said. “The center will thrive alongside Trinity’s other academic centers and institutes and reinforce our distinctiveness as a liberal arts college in a city. All of our centers are living hubs that bring multiple components together and advance Trinity’s mission and goals.”
The center’s first director is Danny Briere, who brings more than three decades of experience as an inventor and entrepreneur to the role. He has founded several successful companies – including TeleChoice, which focuses on cutting-edge, high-impact technologies – and has been an advisor to more than 200 start-ups. Briere holds a BA and an MBA from Duke University, where he studied public policy and economics. He served on the board of Duke University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative for a decade. His experience spans multiple industries, including telecommunications, internet technology, alternative energy, health and medicine, social networking, educational technology, and youth-focused nonprofits.
At the policy level, Briere has supported innovation ecosystems in partnership with universities, business and government, including in Connecticut. He was CEO and co-founder of Startup Connecticut, a statewide initiative to help startups create jobs. Briere has had a successful track record of promoting innovation among young people, including serving as a longtime board member of Connecticut’s Invention Convention and as Chief Entrepreneurship Officer at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. He is also the co-author of numerous general interest publications in the fields of telecommunications and computer networking.
“The Trinity community has all the elements needed to inspire and empower future innovators,” said Briere. “The Center for Entrepreneurship has two goals: first, we want to build inventive, innovative, and entrepreneurial mindsets in all Trinity students; And then, for those who want to take the extra step in product and business adoption, we will support that direction as well.”
Briere said the center is guided by what is best for the students. “This is about giving students more perspective, more opportunities for immersion and engagement, more opportunities to learn, and more ways to achieve their dreams,” he said.
Corporate and nonprofit partnerships through the center can include internships, apprenticeships, sponsorships or experiential learning, Briere said. “There is a wealth of opportunity to partner with companies in Hartford to take student skills and turn them into learning experiences,” he said.
The Center for Entrepreneurship is made possible through the generosity of Lou Shipley ’85. A current member of Trinity’s Board of Trustees, Shipley has served as an executive at several successful technology companies and as a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and the MIT Sloan School of Management. He also served on the President’s Commission on the Future of Trinity in 2020. The center is funded entirely from new donations to the college, fueled by Shipley’s passion and dedication.
Shipley said that entrepreneurship is most often thought of in a business context, where people disrupt the status quo and direct their energy and capital into an opportunity for success. “To me, entrepreneurship is broader and more holistic than business ideas, risks and rewards,” Shipley said, “so I believe this center will be a valuable asset to both the Trinity and Hartford communities.”
He added: “All of the highly successful entrepreneurs that I have worked with, mentored or managed have a liberal arts background. They are curious, think big, and are passionate, resilient, and adaptable, all of which are hallmarks of a Trinity education.”
Cardenas said nearly a dozen faculty leaders from all academic departments participated in an initial discussion with board members about the center’s creation. As part of the process of establishing the center, a group of faculty and administrators, including Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney, visited Dartmouth’s Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship, hosted by former Trustee Eric Fossum ’79, H’14.
A faculty and staff advisory board will provide the center and its director with advice on campus partners and programs. Cardenas said, “We will also seek to engage alumni and parents to help us identify and maximize outside opportunities.” The fundraising goals for the center are aimed at creating impactful opportunities for students, faculty and alumni and to help increase the College’s endowment as part of the broader campaign now underway.
“Just as Hartford was historically a city of invention and innovation, Trinity has a rich history of entrepreneurial alumni and faculty eager to change the world big and small,” said Cardenas. “A distinctive Center for Entrepreneurship will directly and indirectly advance our mission to educate bold, independent thinkers who lead transformative lives. Tackling the world’s most vexing problems requires people who are both critical thinkers and creative doers. There is no better preparation than an education that uncompromisingly combines the liberal arts with a variety of real-world, immersive learning experiences.”