Let’s get something started!

Stefanie Tomlinson
November 06, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Greg Woodman jokes that he was an entrepreneur before it was cool. “When I was selling Nittany Lions T-shirts in the HUB back in 1978, there were no 'Shark Tank' TV shows.”

Fast forward to fall 2015. Woodman, who has spent the past three-and-a-half decades building on that entrepreneurial spirit by leading several successful startups, is teaching ENG 310: Entrepreneurial Leadership as the fall 2015 Bishoff Entrepreneur-in-Residence in the Penn State College of Engineering.

The program was established in 2003 to bring successful entrepreneurs with expertise in engineering, business, design or manufacturing to campus for extended interactions with students, staff and faculty.

Bob Beaury, interim director of the engineering entrepreneurship minor, said Woodman was an ideal candidate to serve as a Bishoff Entrepreneur-in-Residence. “We invited Greg because of his history of effective leadership at local and national companies, as well as his firsthand experiences as an entrepreneur. Students in his course will benefit immensely from his expertise.”

Woodman has designed his ENG 310 class so that it is more interactive than courses he took as an undergraduate. “Lecturing is minimized and students work together on a variety of projects,” he explained.

One such project is a personal business plan that students must put together over the course of the semester. "They need to sell themselves just like they would sell a company, complete with a marketing plan, an executive summary, a five-year financial projection and a full personal website," said Woodman. "This can allow them to dig deep to discover who they are and why they’re here."

Recently, students gave group presentations of a case study for KCF Technologies, a State College-based technology company that develops and commercializes products and solutions for industry and the military. Woodman said KCF representatives and their client were "blown away" by the students’ talent, as well as their ideas, concepts and solutions to the case. "KCF leaders are sincerely eager to hire the winning team of this case, to implement their ideas," said Woodman.

Woodman notes that his teaching assistant, electrical engineering undergraduate student Mark Barbar, has helped add some international flavor to the course. “Mark grew up in Lebanon (the country). That gave us the idea to ask other international students to learn about entrepreneurship in their native countries and report their findings to the rest of the class.”

Barbar has also completed summer entrepreneurship programs at Stanford and Harvard, and he often shares his experiences and offers new ideas for Woodman’s course. “Mark truly serves as a voice for Penn State entrepreneurship students,” said Woodman.

Throughout the semester, guest speakers have been invited to share their experiences as entrepreneurs. One in particular, Smeal College of Business alumnus Chris Jeffery, started Lionmenus.com in State College when he was a student in Penn State’s entrepreneurship minor. Today, Jeffery’s company, now known as OrderUp, is available in almost 60 cities across the country and is still growing. Woodman noted, “When Chris was on campus he was able to share that he just sold his company to Groupon for $100 million. Chris and others who have stories like his can show the class that students start businesses all the time, so why not them?”

Indeed, Woodman will make sure his class makes the most of Penn State’s Global Entrepreneurship Week. “We are visiting New Leaf Initiative, a community hub in downtown State College, also started by a Penn State graduate, that connects Penn State students and faculty with local entrepreneurs and government to encourage collaboration.”

He will also hold an open house so that faculty, staff and students can stop by his classroom and learn more about the course. One thing visitors will discover is that, as the founder and current CEO of Affinity Connection in State College, Woodman brings a unique perspective to the course. "I literally walk out of running a $2 million company with 15 employees and right into the class room," he said. "I can discuss real challenges and situations, and get students’ suggestions for strategy and tactics."

Students will later follow-up to see if Woodman took their advice and whether or not it was effective. “In many ways, this is more relatable for them than discussing hypothetical scenarios.”

Woodman said he has a great deal of respect for E.V. Bishoff, the Pittsburgh native and long-time supporter of the College of Engineering who provided the endowment to establish the entrepreneur-in-residence program. “He saw the value in offering this kind of program to students, and it’s admirable that he supported bringing in people like me to share our outside experiences with the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

  • KCF Technologies Case Study Team 3

    The winning team of the KCF Technologies case study presents to the ENG 310 class. Pictured, left to right, are Alex Kun, chemical engineering; Maria Forni, marketing; and Rucha Bhide, industrial engineering. Team members not pictured: Nikhil Bhat, electrical engineering; Sebastian Vallerjo Zafra, hospitality management; and Jose Elizondo Gonzalez, industrial engineering.

    IMAGE: Stefanie Tomlinson
  • KCF Technologies Case Study Team 5

    The second-place team from the KCF Technologies case study presents to the ENG 310 class. The team includes, from left to right, Bernardo Perez Ortega, civil engineering; Joe Donofry, broadcast journalism; Annabel Drayton, anthropology; and Harvish Mehta, electrical engineering.

    IMAGE: Stefanie Tomlinson
(1 of 2)
Last Updated November 06, 2015