Northeastern University leaders, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and guests gathered in Hayden Hall earlier this month for the grand opening and formal launch of the Michael J. and Ann Sherman Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship Education.
The center’s mission is to enable student entrepreneurship by providing education on tools, concepts, and resources to foster creativity and the ability to develop commercially viable ideas. Sherman, a College of Engineering alumnus and tech innovator, reflected on his and his wife Ann’s motivation to create the center.
“It is our hope and anticipation that within Northeastern University is the solution to most of the travails that affect the human condition,” said Sherman, E’68. Technology and the commercialization of technology, he said, has long served as a way “to improve our living conditions, cure our diseases, move us, entertain us, and invigorate our imagination.”
The center, Sherman added, is designed to foster students’ creativity and inspire them to create innovative solutions and bring them to the marketplace. “The Sherman Center will empower students at Northeastern to think bigger than the technology currently allows and make an impact in the world around them,” he said. “We know wonderful things will happen here, one idea at a time.”
Shashi Murthy, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, is the center’s founding director. He designed the center’s first two courses for engineering students: one focusing on product development, and the other on creative problem solving and design. The center also runs popular workshops on Arduino, an open-source tool for electronics prototyping, and sponsors the Pathways to Entrepreneurship Speaker Series.
Sherman’s gift to establish the center builds upon his loyal and ongoing support of his alma mater over the past 25 years. He has 40 years of experience in communications hardware and software development, including wireless applications for military, government, and commercial use. His business, AES Corp., of Peabody, Massachusetts, produces and installs leading-edge security products for organizations and households in more than 130 countries around the world.
“Michael Sherman has built a successful career as an engineer, an innovator, and a leader,” said Diane MacGillivray, senior vice president of university advancement. “Now he’s taking these strengths and helping us apply what he’s learned in his career to the next generation of engineering entrepreneurs and leaders. I think that really taps into what is most special about Northeastern, something that’s in our DNA—a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Nadine Aubry, dean of the College of Engineering, noted that the center would foster the development of engineering students’ entrepreneurial acumen, enabling them to consider their work’s technical performance as well as its real-world applications. Honing the skills needed to understand and account for factors ranging from costs and consumer needs to supply-chain management and market analysis, she said, would help students maximize their innovations’ societal impact.
“Northeastern engineering students will have an unparalleled edge, not only in terms of having strong technical skills and co-op experience but also taking into account societal needs,” Aubry said.
The center builds upon Northeastern’s robust ecosystem of entrepreneurship education and programs, including the Northeastern University Center for Entrepreneurship Education, the Health Sciences Entrepreneurs program, and IDEA, Northeastern’s student-run venture accelerator. “With this gift, we will continue to build our leadership in entrepreneurship, just as we are a leader in experiential education,” said Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
Sherman’s gift comes as Northeastern’s historic Empower campaign and annual fundraising soar to new heights. Launched in May 2013, Empower: The Campaign for Northeastern University is a comprehensive fundraising drive to secure $1 billion in support of students, faculty, and research innovation and will shape the future of teaching, learning, and discovery at Northeastern; amplify the university’s strengths in creativity and entrepreneurship; and redefine its leadership on a global scale.