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July 14, 2021 | Tom Ballard

Mike Bradshaw, UTC’s new EIR, is “so excited to be back” working with entrepreneurs

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

If you know Chattanoogan Mike Bradshaw very well, you would probably agree with my belief that his social media handle either is or at least should be “Mr. Enthusiasm.”

That’s the attitude that he has always displayed since I first met him more than eight years ago, and it was clearly evidenced during a telephone call last Friday, a day after he was named the first Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) (see last week’s article here) for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC).

“I’m so excited to be back,” he said of the role that will allow Bradshaw to work with student entrepreneurs across the campus and also be a primary day-to-day interface with Chattanooga’s broader entrepreneurial ecosystem. “The corporate world just did not do it for me. It (the UTC role) is such a beautiful thing for me . . . within the campus and also reengaged with the community.”

The former Executive Director of CO.LAB says he was wrapping-up his full-time work with Jensen Hughes, an international safety engineering and consulting firm, when Robert Dooley, Dean of UTC’s Gary W. Rollins College of Business, asked him one day if he might be interested in the EIR role.

“I think I shocked him when I responded that I absolutely would; where do I sign-up,” Bradshaw said, explaining that Dooley was a member of CO.LAB’s Board of Directors during his tenure leading the organization.

In Bradshaw’s case, a key deciding factor was a point underscored by Libby Santin, CIE Director, in an article that we posted in January about the Center, its work and the broader philosophy for entrepreneurial thinking. “There’s a campus-wide mission of entrepreneurialism,” Bradshaw said, echoing Santin’s comments to us about the importance of instilling in students an entrepreneurial mindset so that they can apply those skills wherever they work, whether it is in a start-up or established business.

“It’s all about fostering collaboration,” he said of the roughly halftime role that he has taken. In that vein, Bradshaw’s enthusiasm also extends to what he characterized as the “dream team” – individuals with whom he expects to work closely, both on campus and in the community. Included in the former category were Santin; Thomas Lyons, holder of the Clarence E. Harris Chair of Excellence in Entrepreneurship in UTC’s Gary W. Rollins College of Business; Jennifer Skjellum, another “first ever” as UTC’s Commercialization Counselor; and researchers already active with the community like Mina Sartipi with the award-winning “Chattanooga Smart Community Collaborative.”

On the community side, Bradshaw specifically cited Lindsey Cox, CO.LAB’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Deb Socia, President and CEO of The Enterprise Center. He has established relationships with both individuals.

As noted in the UTC news release announcing his appointment that was effective July 1, one of the top early priorities is reenergizing something called the “Idea Central Living-Learning Community.” It’s a program in which students with an interest in entrepreneurship live together while learning more about the field and opportunities to pursue it on campus and in the community.

Like many initiatives on college campuses during the 2020-21 academic year, it was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as students prepare to return to campus, Bradshaw sees this as one of those efforts that can be “kicked back-up to a high gear” very quickly.

He will also oversee a mentor program for student and faculty entrepreneurs, develop a Startup Internship Program, act as a coach in CIE’s pilot program for measuring and developing entrepreneurship skills, and lead other initiatives that spread entrepreneurship across the UTC campus.

As noted in the just concluded two-part series on UTC’s research efforts (Part 1 and Part 2), there’s a strong focus from many sectors of the institution to, in Bradshaw’s words, “bring the university in to being a stronger partner with the community.”

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