First-ever virtual Distinguished Speaker Series event draws online crowd to examine academia’s role in entrepreneurship

Princeton University’s Rodney D. Priestley believes that support for innovation is crucial at a time when society is facing so many challenges. The leading researcher implored audience members to consider how higher education can help grow the innovation ecosystem during his fall 2020 lecture titled, “Building a Better Future by Supporting Academic Innovation and Entrepreneurship” on Nov. 17, via Webex.

The event was part of the College’s Distinguished Speaker Series, now in its 12th year and the first-ever to be held virtually.

The talk focused on how to best support academic innovation and entrepreneurship in order to grow the innovation ecosystem. Priestley reflected on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals and how they connect to his research at Princeton University and the global society at large.

Priestley also stressed the importance of integrating science and engineering with the liberal arts and social sciences and outlined three major components of a productive innovation ecosystem: business environment, the unique interacting actors and culture and attitudes.

“What we really see is that academic institutions play a small but critical role in the overall innovation and entrepreneur ecosystem,” said Priestley. “We have to think seriously about the promotion of entrepreneurship at our schools and how we can make sure that this career choice is one that is desirable and attainable for our students.”

As first vice dean for innovation and associate director for Princeton University’s Center for Complex Materials, Priestley excels in fundamental research and in the development and translation of intellectual property derived from his research into products and enterprises. He joined Princeton as an assistant professor in 2009, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles in Paris. He earned a   Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 2008 from Northwestern University and a  B.S. in chemical engineering from Texas Tech University in 2003.

All were welcome to attend this virtual Distinguished Speaker Series event. Audience members included former SUNY New Paltz President Alice Chandler, who previously attended a talk at Princeton given by Priestley and encouraged the College to invite him to SUNY New Paltz.

“Academic institutions still remain at the center for knowledge innovation and research much of which can have a positive impact on society,” said Priestley. “But in order for the research that takes place at academic institutions to have this kind of impact, we must build an integrated support system across subjects to allow for the translation of fundamental and basic research.”

About the Distinguished Speaker Series
The SUNY New Paltz Distinguished Speaker Series connects the College’s alumni, community members, faculty, staff, students and their families with well-known authors, policymakers, scientists, media experts, business leaders and other luminaries.

The Distinguished Speaker Series is made possible by the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, with support from M&T Bank.