Penn State Berks has partnered with Penn State Health St. Joseph.

College develops entrepreneurial ecosystem

In partnership with Penn State Health St. Joseph, Penn State Berks has received a $50,000 seed grant as part of the Invent Penn State initiative.

By: Lisa Baldi

In partnership with Penn State Health St. Joseph, Penn State Berks has received a $50,000 seed grant as part of the Invent Penn State initiative, which is supporting entrepreneurship education, research and community outreach across Pennsylvania. For many years, faculty and staff at the college worked to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem to educate and prepare graduates who will bring entrepreneurial expertise and skills to their careers and communities.  Through the Invent Penn State program, the focus will be on expanding the existing infrastructure into the broader community.

The college has several entrepreneurial programs in place ranging from its Center for Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) to the Berks Learning Factory to the more recent partnership with Penn State Health St. Joseph to support community-based health and other initiatives in the City of Reading.

In an effort to inspire an entrepreneurial spirit among students and to seek partnerships with business and industry that foster economic growth, The Center for Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development was established in the fall of 2011. The college also has a minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and several graduates have started their own successful businesses. Meanwhile, the Berks Learning Factory works to integrate industry-sponsored design projects into both first-year and senior engineering design courses, to the benefit of both engineering students and local industry.

Center for Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development

President Barron (right) had an opportunity to visit the Penn State Berks Center for Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. He is pictured with James Laurie, Instructor in Business at Penn State Berks. 

Image: Penn State

“We are excited by the support from the Invent Penn State program and welcome the opportunity to work with our partner, Penn State Health St. Joseph, to build upon and expand the existing entrepreneurial ecosystem with a focus on business and economic development, as well as social entrepreneurship projects in the City of Reading,” states Keith Hillkirk, Chancellor of Penn State Berks.

Recently Penn State Berks and Penn State Health St. Joseph have joined forces in an initiative titled “Be Bold…Take Charge,” in which faculty and students at the college, as well as Penn State Health St. Joseph’s physicians and staff, support community-based health and initiatives in the City of Reading. The initiative is headed by James Shankweiler, Senior Lecturer in Business at Penn State Berks, and Dr. Kim Wolf at Penn State Health St. Joseph.

“As the largest primary care provider in Downtown Reading, we ensure residents have access to healthcare, especially those residents with chronic illness. With Penn State Berks as an ‘on the ground’ partner, and now with the further support of this grant, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of the social, cultural and economic barriers to improving the physical and mental health of this urban community,” states John R. Morahan, President and CEO, Penn State Health St. Joseph.

College welcomes AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for health initiative

Penn State Berks also welcomes Lisa Weaver as its first AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, through the Pennsylvania Campus Compact (PACC) VISTA program, to help facilitate the joint health initiative between Penn State Berks and Penn State Health St. Joseph, along with Professor Shankweiler and Dr. Kim Wolf of Penn State Health St. Joseph.

As a VISTA volunteer, Weaver’s key responsibilities include meeting with community organizations and other stakeholders to explore partnerships; validating and analyzing strategies to make sure the approach is sustainable; helping to mobilize participation by Penn State Berks students and members of the community; and writing grants to gain support for the initiative. She will be working from the college campus, as well at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Downtown Reading Campus.

Lisa Weaver

Lisa Weaver has been hired as Penn State Berks' first AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer.

Image: Penn State

Weaver, a 2013 graduate of Eastern University with a B.A. in Economic Development, explains that she learned of the initiative and the need for an AmeriCorps VISTA member when she was a volunteer for Redesign Reading, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the economic development of the City of Reading.  

So far, Weaver has met with several organizations in the City of Reading including the Centro Hispano Daniel Torres, Inc., Olivet Boys & Girls Club, and Redesign Reading, as well as the leadership of several church congregations.

“It’s been a great experience. It’s kind of a dance as we explore the areas where I bring expertise to the project and where students can assist,” explains Weaver, who stated that the goal is to eventually have student participation from half of the college’s 20 baccalaureate degree programs.

Weaver will give leadership to student groups as they embark on the initiative, explains Shankweiler. So far, students in all of Shankweiler’s Project Management courses are participating. In the spring of 2016, Business majors with a Management & Marketing option, as well as Communication Arts and Sciences students, conducted initial research for the initiative.

Shankweiler and Weaver hope to mobilize future participation from students in the college’s Hospitality Management major through a bilingual cooking show, Kinesiology through fitness programs at Olivet Boys & Girls Club, Professional Writing through interviews with Reading residents, and Information Sciences and Technology through the creation of a website for the initiative. In addition, students in the college’s Latino Unity Club are providing translation services for interactions with the City’s Latino population.