news update

Booth Nurtured Start-Ups Are in Demand

Entrepreneurship excitement spreads across university with funding of innovation center

It was a big year at Booth and at the University of Chicago. Eleven student businesses built and developed with guidance and resources from the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation were involved in mergers and acquisitions.

The largest and most high profile was the $800 million acquisition of Braintree by PayPal, a unit of eBay. Braintree, a processor of mobile payments and winner of the 2007 Edward L. Kaplan, '71 New Venture Challenge, was founded by Bryan Johnson, '07.

Meanwhile the University of Chicago in October announced the Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE), a hub for multidisciplinary collaborations and support for business start-up activities. With participation from different divisions and affiliates of the university, including Chicago Booth and the Polsky Center, the CIE is designed to help scholars and entrepreneurs translate their ideas and new technologies into businesses and products. The CIE is part of a larger expansion of entrepreneurial opportunities sparked by an $8 million gift from energy entrepreneur Michael Polsky, '87. That 2012 gift was aimed at expanding the Polsky Center's mission to support entrepreneurship and innovation across the university.

The CIE, set to open in late 2014, is buttressed by a $20 million fund from the University. The center will house business units of Argonne National Laboratory and the Institute for Molecular Engineering. Other partners include the Computation Institute, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the University of Chicago Medicine. - Jonah Rabb


Conference Inspires Students to Make an Impact

Booth graduates don't have to pursue careers in government or at nonprofits to change the world. They can make a difference working at large companies, Mike Ray, '84, a vice president at IBM, told students at the Chicago Net Impact Conference on October 11 at Gleacher Center.


Big companies have the resources to make a significant impact but don't necessarily make it a priority, he said in the keynote address, according to the student newspaper, Chicago Business. There is a need for social-minded people to permeate these corporate structures, he added.

The conference, MBAs for the Power of Good, was the flagship event for the Booth Net Impact Group, an organization of approximately 200 Full-Time students. It is affiliated with nationwide Net Impact, a community of students and professionals striving for social and environmental change.

Panel discussions focused on education, the arts, impact investing, big data, sustainability, and health care. Twenty- five speakers represented a variety of companies and nonprofit organizations including The Art Institute of Chicago, Groupon Inc., Hyatt Corp., McDonald's Corp., and Whole Foods Market.

"We wanted to make sure we had a diverse program," said Angela Samper, conference co-chair with Laura Burgos, both second-year students. "There's such a high level of interest from the student body." - Jonah Rabb and Judith Crown

Photo courtesy of Angela Samper


The Legacy of Robert W. Fogel

fogelThe life and work of Robert W. Fogel - who until his death in June 2013 was Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of American Institutions at Chicago Booth - was recalled in reflections both personal and professional at several events in October.

They culminated in a one-day conference on October 6 marking the 40th anniversary of Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery, the controversial data-driven book written by Fogel and Stanley Engerman that challenged the conventional wisdom that slavery was inefficient, unprofitable, and on the wane at the time of the Civil War.

Conference speaker Jonathan B. Pritchett, AM '79, PhD '86, associate professor of economics at Tulane University, studied under Fogel as a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago. He noted that although today's researchers have access to better datasets than some of those used in the original book, Fogel and Engerman's framework continues to shape the study of economic history.

That was demonstrated in a series of papers presented at the conference, on subjects such as the history of distinctively African American names, connections between lynching and economic activity, and data on runaway slaves.

Discussing the reaction to the book's publication, Engerman, an economics professor at the University of Rochester, said he was booed for two minutes by 1,000 people at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was accused by one questioner of being "soft on slavery."

"We assumed everyone knew that slavery was evil," Engerman said. "What were we supposed to do - put 'We hate slavery' at the bottom of every page?" However, he said he was pleased that textbooks now generally follow the book's conclusions in discussing slavery.

The day before, at a memorial service held at the University of Chicago's Rockefeller Chapel, Steven Fogel delivered a more personal remembrance of his father, who he said "was a typical absent-minded professor." Once, he recalled, the Nobel laureate became frustrated with having mislaid his glasses. When it was pointed out to him that he was, in fact, wearing them, the economist responded: "Ah - I was wondering how I could see so well without them." - Hal Weitzman

Photo by Chris Strong

Last Updated 1/20/14