2024: A Year of Collaboration and Innovation at the Blank School

Collage of headshots of the six directors of the Blank School's centers and institutes.

Each new year brings new opportunities and new hopes. 

For the Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College, 2024 promises to be full of new opportunities for collaboration and innovation. 

“We’re looking forward to further collaboration with the other centers and institutes in 2024,” said Smaiyra Million P’21, executive director of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship. “We all truly enjoy working together.” 

Smaiyra Million speaks during an event
Smaiyra Million P’21, executive director, Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship

Most notably, in 2024, Babson and the Blank School will host the prestigious annual global conference organized by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers (GCEC) on November 14–16 in Boston, bringing the world’s university-based centers for entrepreneurship together to collaborate on emerging challenges and share best practices. 

In addition to preparing for and hosting the GCEC Conference, Babson’s six academic centers and institutes at the Blank School will be collaborating in new and inventive ways. 

The B.E.T.A. (Babson Entrepreneurial Thought & Action®) Challenge—a signature event at the Blank Center, for the first time will include all of the centers and institutes as individual prize categories, representing their area of entrepreneurial focus. “This reinforces the messaging of the Blank School, as one cohesive center of excellence for the College,” Million said. 

We asked the six directors of the Blank School’s centers and institutes to share what they were most looking forward to in the new year. 

Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship 

Smaiyra Million P’21, executive director: “We are looking forward to bringing luminaries like Dr. Rumman Chowdhury to campus to discuss the global role of AI and policy. In the fall, we have the honor of hosting GCEC. We can’t wait to have 600-plus members of the global entrepreneurial ecosystem on campus to exchange ideas and move our collective missions forward.” 

Bertarelli Institute for Family Entrepreneurship 

Lauri Union listens during an event
Lauri Union, Nulsen Family Executive Director, Bertarelli Institute for Family Entrepreneurship

Lauri Union, Nulsen Family Executive Director: “The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) reported that 75% of startups are family driven. With that in mind, led by Associate Director Benjapon Jivasantikarn, the Bertarelli Institute for Family Entrepreneurship is collaborating with the Blank Center to support students launching startups with family. Our Family Entrepreneurship Mastermind program provides tools and guidance for first-year students who are navigating the particular challenges of launching a startup with family. 

“Our first-ever Family Entrepreneurship B.E.T.A. Challenge Award will highlight family startups at this Blank Center signature event. This work in learning how to support family startups is valuable to Babson students and informs future initiatives that could help families who do not currently have businesses or sufficient financial resources to develop sustainable levels of wealth through family entrepreneurship.” 

Frank & Eileen™ Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership 

Shakenna Williams speaks during an event
Shakenna Williams ’94, executive director, Frank & Eileen ™ Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership

Shakenna Williams ’94, executive director: “The Frank & Eileen™ Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership is coordinating several innovative programs and impactful initiatives in 2024 to empower and support women entrepreneurs and allies. One of these special projects is conducting a case study on our namesake, Frank & Eileen™, and its founder, Audrey McLoghlin

“We also anticipate the lasting impact of 2023 trends, with a particular emphasis on resilience and allyship. These key elements are expected to play a crucial role in empowering and advancing women entrepreneurs in 2024 and beyond.” 

In 2024, Williams also will be celebrating her 30th reunion as a distinguished Babson alumna, marking a milestone in her journey and contributions to the entrepreneurial community. 

Institute for Social Innovation 

Cheryl Kiser speaks during an event
Cheryl Kiser, executive director, Institute for Social Innovation

Cheryl Kiser, executive director: “Every year, I get excited about what new collaborations are on the horizon with both our longtime and brand-new partners. This year, the Institute for Social Innovation is most looking forward to new and expanded relationships with the next iteration of Project ROI, a portfolio of action research projects. There is no better time to highlight how global companies are successfully integrating programs for economic and social value creation, looking at business cases for sustainability and DEI. 

“As we see Gen Z continuing to push businesses to be ‘good global citizens,’ our students and corporate leaders have sought opportunities to better understand how to drive social change. In response, we’re expanding the Entrepreneurial Advocacy certificate program we piloted in partnership with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The presidential election year provides a timely opportunity to also partner with Calling All Crows to deepen Gen Z’s engagement with democracy through an experiential training program.” 

Kerry Murphy Healey Center for Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

Wiljeana Glover listens during an event
Wiljeana Glover, founding faculty director, Kerry Murphy Healey Center for Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Wiljeana Glover, founding faculty director: “I am looking forward to seeing the preliminary results of the effectiveness of the Kerry Murphy Healey Center for Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s first full year of delivering customized programs for entrepreneurial leaders in the drug addiction space (via our SUD Sprint Program) and in access to surgical care in low- and middle-income countries (via our Global Surgery Slingshot program). 

“AI will definitely influence the development of healthcare and life science solutions in 2024 and beyond. This influences much of the research of the center, e.g., how AI reveals new roles for clinicians and for the completion of certain administrative tasks. We will continue to incorporate these trends in our courses like the Global Health Innovation Lab and our Crossroads Speaker Series, so that our graduate and undergraduate students can leverage the most cutting-edge technologies with wisdom in their future endeavors.” 

Tariq Farid Franchise Institute 

Ab Igram listens during an event
Ab Igram MBA’96, executive director, Tariq Farid Franchise Institute

Ab Igram MBA’96, executive director: “I am most looking forward to continued collaboration with faculty partners such as Phil Kim and Vini Onyemah, my Babson center and institute peers and leaders, and other partners to accelerate social and economic value creation. The Tariq Farid Franchise Institute is increasingly seeing the franchise model as a formidable and inclusive pathway to scaling entrepreneurship of all kinds and wealth creation. Working in tandem with Babson’s Frank and Eileen™ Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership and Institute for Social Innovation, I am excited to collaborate to provide pathways for aspiring entrepreneurs. 

“On the technology front, based on discussions with franchisors and franchisees, we are learning more about opportunities for how generative AI tools can help them act more entrepreneurially and lead more effectively. In 2024, we look forward to developing practical tools for our students and other community members.” 

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