Advancing Equity in Innovation and Entrepreneurship

VentureWell is on a mission to cultivate a diverse pipeline of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs driven to solve the world’s biggest challenges and create lasting impact. We have a long history of—and deep commitment to—supporting faculty and innovators at US-based colleges and universities through funding, training, and building a vital I&E community where collaboration is encouraged and ideas and best practices are shared. 

A key focus in our work is expanding the participation of historically underrepresented, underestimated, and underresourced faculty and students in science and technology innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E)—specifically those who identify as Black, Latinx, and Indigenous; women of all backgrounds; and individuals from low-income backgrounds. 

We invite you to explore the resources, tools, and opportunities we have assembled to help you advance equity at your institution and in your program.

advancing equity

Advancing Equity: Navigating New Terrain

Our new series of publications, Advancing Equity: Navigating New Terrain, demonstrate ways to apply action areas and strategies that can support innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) faculty and leaders of entrepreneurship centers to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices in their programs.

Learn more about the series and the upcoming Community Conversations for Advancing Equity here.

Charting a Path Forward: Reflections on Initial Steps Toward Advancing Equity in Innovation & Entrepreneurship

This publication is a comprehensive reflection on our ongoing journey identifying, articulating, addressing, and assessing the systemic gaps in equity and inclusion across our work. It offers key lessons and recommendations gleaned from our past two years of tests, trials, failures, and successes in striving to advance equity and inclusion within our organization and in the broader innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) ecosystem. Read the publication for strategies on how to launch or strengthen equity efforts in your school or organization.

Read the publication.

Strategies for Advancing Equity in Higher Education Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Our report describes six interrelated strategies to help entrepreneurship centers and programs broaden participation among early-stage innovators and entrepreneurs. It presents approaches to foster equity and inclusion in science and S&T I&E across the field of higher education. Read the report for more about the six areas for action as well as suggestions for how to integrate them in your organization or your school.

Download the report

Cultivating Inclusivity; collage of silhouetted facesCultivating Inclusivity

Our Cultivating Inclusivity article series takes a deep dive into one of the most talked-about topics at OPEN 2022: the concept of belonging in higher education. We examine how the innovation and entrepreneurship community can further this important work.

Cultivating Inclusivity: The Impact of Belonging on Student Success
A lack of belonging is most acute for those who are underrepresented—and often overlooked—particularly in higher education. We share ways to foster a sense of belonging within higher education.

Cultivating Inclusivity: How To Infuse Belonging in Your Classroom
We unpack how the innovation and entrepreneurship community can bring a sense of belonging to higher education by starting in the classroom.

Cultivating Inclusivity: Storytelling To Foster Belonging and Inclusion
Learn how to cultivate a sense of belonging through storytelling in your classroom by utilizing stories from mentors and teaching students how to tell their own.

Cultivating Inclusivity: Engagement at Community Colleges and Beyond
Learn how community colleges welcome and encourage entrepreneurs from non-traditional backgrounds—and how you can, too.

Cultivating Inclusivity: Why Mentorship Matters in Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Find out how to provide mentorship to students who may not feel like they belong in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Equity Statements from VentureWell President and CEO Phil Weilerstein

Black innovators matter. Black lives matter. (2020)

Advancing Racial Equity: Our Reflections and Ongoing Commitment (2021)

Taking Action for Equity: Accelerating Inclusive Innovation and Entrepreneurship (2022)

Taking Action for Equity: Maximizing Our Impact in Inclusive Innovation (2023)

Find Mentors Your Students Can Identify With: A Faculty Member’s Journey

Speaker: Juan Barraza, director of Student Innovation at the Portland State University Center for Entrepreneurship


Advancing Equity: Navigating New Terrain—Hosted by NACCE

Speakers: Zoe Hunter, managing director, Tsai CITY
Jacen Greene, assistant director, Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative at Portland State University
Monica Dean, managing director, Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, University of Southern California
Shaheen Mamawala, Director, Planning & Partnerships, VentureWell


Rethinking Recruitment Helped Reach a Diverse Student Population

Speaker: Juan Barraza, director of Student Innovation at the Portland State University Center for Entrepreneurship


How I Used Heart and Data To Increase Diversity and Improve My Teaching: A Faculty Member’s Journey

Speaker: Jacen Greene, co-founder and assistant director of Portland State University’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative


Community Conversation for Advancing Equity: Validating Multiple Pathways and Creating Holistic Organizational Approaches

Speakers: Onyeka Obiocha, Managing Director of Tsai CITY (Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale) (moderator)
Juan Barraza, Director, Student Innovation, Portland State University Center for Entrepreneurship
Debra Joy Pérez, Senior Philanthropic Advisor and Executive Consultant


Community Conversation for Advancing Equity: Authentic Outreach & Mentorship

Speakers: Dr. Damon Tull, Director, Industry Alliances, University of California, Davis – Graduate School of Management
Dr. Isabelle Monlouis, Associate Director, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute, Georgia State University
Samer Yousif, Program Officer, VentureWell


Community Conversation for Advancing Equity: Creating Inclusive Spaces and Building Confidence

Speakers: Monica Dean, Director of the Jill Ker Conway I&E Center, Smith College
Ji Mi Choi, Associate VP of Knowledge Enterprise, Arizona State University
Jade Lockard, Program Manager, HBCU Founders Program, Nex Cubed 


Strategies for Advancing Equity in Higher Education Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Our panel discussion for the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) Leadership Summit offers actionable insights to advance equity in innovation and entrepreneurship programs.


Increasing Patent Diversity

We produced content to spotlight ways to increase participation among inventors with patents.

Advancing Equity in Innovation: Underrepresentation of Diverse Innovators in the Patent System

In this webinar, we explored what we know about patent gaps, the obstacles to closing them, and the role universities can play in ensuring increased access and engagement for underrepresented groups across the innovation ecosystem. We also present key key elements to support IP strategies within universities from our report


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In the spirit of collaboration and learning, we welcome your input and feedback on what is working well on your campus and where you are encountering challenges. Please send your questions, comments, and insights to Kristen Golden and Shaheen Mamawala at VentureWell:

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