New professorship encourages entrepreneurial spirit

Geneseo appointed Judith Albers as the first Charles L. “Bud” VanArsdale Endowed Chair for Entrepreneurship. This is the first endowed professorship in Geneseo’s 142-year history. The Victor, N.Y., resident is co-founder of Pre-Seed Workshops, as well as co-founder and managing partner of its umbrella organization, Networks LLC. Pre-Seed provides “build a company” events that utilizes community resources to create commercial opportunities in potential companies, according to a Geneseo press release. She is an expert in entrepreneurial training with a focus on commercialization of university-based research.

Albers was part of an entrepreneurship community that brought her from Washington to Rochester 14 years ago.

“I started some programs that started in Rochester and then spread to Buffalo, Syracuse, New York City and Long Island. We started working outside of New York State and got some programs in Indiana at the University at Notre Dame. We even started working in Switzerland and the University of Geneva,” Albers said.

Albers said she recognizes the increasing pressure that especially smaller college campuses face in regards to providing entrepreneurship opportunities to students.

“There’s a movement across the country regarding entrepreneurship,” Albers said. “There’s a lot of excitement about entrepreneurship now, and it’s sort of hitting every college campus.

“We can’t rely on Kodak or Xerox or General Electric, some of the big corporations, as we did in the past,” she said. “It’s now about small businesses. That’s where the new growth is.”

The VanArsdale Chair for Entrepreneurship was created with a $2.5 million donation by VanArsdale, former president of the Bank of Castile. He also served as a director of Geneseo’s Small Business Development Center.

“VanArsdale worked with the folks over in advancement and the president and provost and basically said that he’d like to endow this chair and have them bring somebody on board that can fulfill his vision,” Albers said. “I’m privileged enough to have been selected, and I’m really humbled and honored.”

Albers discussed her plans as entrepreneurship chair, emphasizing her desire to work with students and faculty alike to help turn their business ideas into realities.

“My job will to get the conversation going about entrepreneurship in a variety of ways,” Albers explained. “I want to introduce curriculum, introduce programs and get better networking with Rochester and Buffalo and the entrepreneurship communities there.

“I’ll be working in conjunction with a lot of folks on campus and in the community to see any ideas we have here and see if we can take those ideas and really create those businesses,” she said.

“I think this is, in many ways, like a dream job. Working in the entrepreneurship community, I was a closet academic, always writing papers and doing research. It is a lot to do ‘on the side,’ so to get the opportunity to do that full time is a gift,” she said.

She explained that while she is using this semester to plan and get adjusted, come January she plans to be working on implementing up to six innovative entrepreneurial ideas. These ideas don’t have to come from students within the business school.

“Any students and/or faculty members that have a business idea that’s been in the back of their mind for a long time and they’ve been kind of mulling it over, I would love to talk to them. This is an open invitation to send me an email or stop by my office,” Albers said.