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Community College President's Spotlight | Daniel Larson | 2009

NACCE has compiled vignettes of community college Presidents who have embraced entrepreneurship as part of the solution to the challenging times we are facing-both for the leadership team and the communities they serve. Below is the second in our series, a brief story of Dr. Daniel Larson, President, Cayuga Community College in Auburn, NY. Enjoy!

A NACCE Entrepreneurial President Profile: Daniel Larson, D.M.A., Cayuga Community College, Auburn, NY

Dan Larson has served as the president of Cayuga Community College since August 2007. Located in New York's beautiful Finger Lakes region, the school has a projected enrollment this fall of about 6,000 students. It is one of 64 accredited institutions that make up the State University of New York (SUNY).

Like many community college presidents across the Northeast, Larson works in a region that needs to reinvent itself in the face of the loss of the manufacturing jobs that once drove the local economy. To address this challenge Cayuga is striving to be a leader in entrepreneurship education.

"The Institute for Community College Development at Cornell University, which provides leadership programming for SUNY's 30 community colleges and to schools in nearby states, ran a summer leadership program four or five years ago that talked about the entrepreneurial college," Larson says. "That conference prompted a lot of people across the state to think about entrepreneurs, particularly in the context of community colleges. That led very quickly to my predecessor, Dennis Golloday [now Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges for the State of New York] to start discussions with local foundations about next steps.

Cayuga's first step was a strong one. A local foundation, the Fred L. Emerson Foundation, contributed $500,000 to establish the nation's first endowed chair in entrepreneurship at the community college level at Cayuga. In the fall of 2007, Professor Tom Paczkowski was named the first Fred L. Emerson Foundation Endowed Chair in Enterprise and Innovation. Paczkowski has worked with the faculty to engage them in entrepreneurism and what it means in their work and in the context of their discipline.

"Tom is leading the charge with entrepreneurship," Larson says. "We want to see entrepreneurship infused across the entire curriculum so no student leaves the college without having an opportunity to gain insight into entrepreneurial skills and what it means to be an entrepreneur.

"The second thing that happened as a result of the conversations to Dennis Golladay started was that the Stardust Foundation of Central New York donated $1 million to establish the Stardust Entrepreneurial Institute, which we had the formal ribbon-cutting for in August," Larson continues. "Through a collaborative process between the college and the Stardust Foundation, we've remodeled an historic building in downtown Auburn to include five business incubators, a smart classroom/conference room loaded with technology, and several offices that will involve community groups such as SCORE. We're in conversations with the city and the county to establish a place that will be sort of a triage center for people who want to take the first steps toward making their business idea a reality.

"The building will also include about a half dozen training rooms that we hope to complete within the next 12 months," Larson adds. "There we will deliver college programs and services, workshops, seminars, and training sessions about things such as how to draft a business plan.

Larson notes that the college started in downtown Auburn 56 years ago, but has not had a presence there since it moved to its current campus in 1960. "Now, the college is returning to its roots, and what's important is that this investment of capital dollars downtown is starting to spark more investment. The block where the Institute is located is seeing an additional $3.5 million in investment by other people, which shows that entrepreneurial programs like ours can be the lynchpin to tap into money to redevelop downtowns.

Asked how his school's participation in NACCE has assisted their efforts, Larson replies, "NACCE has provided us with the information, resources, background, and contacts to implement our entrepreneurship program without having to re-invent everything. The NACCE Conference is invaluable, as is the staff, helping Cayuga to determine its steps to implement our program. We wouldn't be as far along as we are with our program and its activities were it not for NACCE."

Corner Office Advice

For other schools starting down the path to entrepreneurship, Larson says it is crucial that the connection to the community is as robust as you can possibly make it. "This not something the college tried to do by itself," he says. "The whole concept behind entrepreneurism is that sense of collaboration and partnering and teaching across boundaries and lines and traditions that has not been done previously or may not have done well previously. The first piece is to identify who are the entrepreneurs in your area; connect with them and talk about the intersection of what the college is trying to accomplish with its academic programs and services and what the region needs in terms of economic development and workforce development and how those two things intersect. These are very powerful connecting points there that need to be engaged.

"Entrepreneurism isn't just the purview of a business program or business faculty," he concludes. "In many ways it should be the stance of the whole college. It may look different and sound different in each discipline or field of study; that's fine because I think that diversity is what entrepreneurs are all about and the diversity will add to the breadth and depth of what the college is trying to accomplish. It's not just that entrepreneurs by default go to the business folks; it has to be broader than that."

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