W.E. Cornell program focuses on women in STEM

Andrea Ippolito

Andrea Ippolito ’06, M.Eng. ’07, executive director of Cornell’s engineering management program and an eLab instructor, noticed an underrepresentation of women in entrepreneurship classrooms and programs on campus.

She decided to shift the norm.

This fall, Ippolito will launch a new training program called W.E. (women entrepreneurs) Cornell, designed to address persistent underrepresentation of women entrepreneurs in STEM fields. The program, open to graduate women pursuing a degree in a STEM field, runs from November through April and will accept a first cohort of five to 10 students. Applications are being taken; applicants are not required to have a fully developed product concept to participate, as the program will work with students from ideation through investor pitches.

“We’re hoping this program serves as an on-ramp so women can get excited about the field of entrepreneurship, try on some new skills for size, do a lot of learning by doing and also be part of a cohort so that they get to network with other women who have similar interests,” said Ippolito.

What makes the program unique is its focus on women studying STEM subjects. One of the program’s goals is to focus on technologies with high-growth potential that will enable the development of companies with hundreds or even thousands of employees in different domains.

W.E. Cornell’s first cohort will be provided with networking opportunities and connections with members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Participants will also gain knowledge of leadership development, the commercialization process and customer development.

Mentorship will play a large role in the development of participants’ business acumen. “One of the things that research has shown is that there aren’t enough role models for women in STEM who want to pursue entrepreneurial pathways,” said Ippolito.

Ippolito herself lacked confidence in her abilities as an entrepreneur in graduate school. It wasn’t until an adviser encouraged her to join a hackathon team that she co-founded a company and took it through several accelerator programs. Smart Scheduling, which uses an algorithm to predict no-shows at medical practices, was acquired by Athenahealth.

“Ippolito is uniquely qualified to lead W.E. Cornell,” said Tom Schryver, executive director of Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement, where the program is housed. “Not only is she an engineer and experienced startup founder, she began her entrepreneurial journey at the same point at which many of the program participants will find themselves.”

Students will have several opportunities to continue to develop their ideas upon completion of the program, such as participating in the hardware accelerator at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works or becoming a Commercialization Fellow.

W.E. Cornell is “by women, for women” and funded by a grant from the President’s Council of Cornell Women, but mentors for program participants may be female or male. Ippolito has a message for them: “Come one, come all.”

Casey Verderosa is a freelance writer for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

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