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Shared Legacy

In 1991, a few individuals planted the first seeds of an official entrepreneurship program as the dynamics of collegiate innovation adapted to the growth in technology worldwide. Now, all these years later, the Buerk Center stands as one of the pillars of the UW and Seattle entrepreneurial ecosystem—focused on empowering students at all levels to solve real-world problems by launching impactful businesses.

But just as a startup is only as strong as the individuals behind it, so is the Buerk Center. On this page we celebrate the perspectives of individuals who impacted or participated in our programs, competitions, and courses not only through reflection, but by looking forward. These are valuable first-hand experiences and insights that can serve as additional resources to student entrepreneurs, campus partners, and those in the community who engage with us now or want to engage with us in the future.

Better Together: Lessons and Legacy

Timeline: Fostering an Entrepreneurial Future

Nothing is built overnight. As we tell burgeoning entrepreneurs, it begins with an idea. The validation that comes next requires time, effort, testing, and growth. This is true of the journey of formal entrepreneurship programming in the Foster School of Business as it grew from an early-stage concept to the pillar that it is today. Below we highlight some of the significant historical milestones since 1991.

Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (PEI)

Gary Hansen, alongside Borje “Bud” Saxberg and venture capitalist Neal Dempsey (BA 1964), and contributions from others launch the first official Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (PEI) at the University of Washington in the UW Business School.

Significant Milestones

Fall 1991 — Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation begins (Gary Hansen, Founder/Director) with the rollout of academic and extra-curricular programs over the next few years.
Fall 1997 — Connie Bourassa-Shaw named Managing Director of Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (PEI)
Spring 1998 — New Venture Practicum offered
Spring 1998 — First UW Business Plan Competition (Now Dempsey Startup Competition)
Fall 1998 — Creating a Company course debuts
Fall 1999 — Technology Entrepreneurship Certificate for non-MBA graduate students offered

Center for Technology Entrepreneurship (CTE)

Then Executive Director Michael Song aims to create the leading national research center for developing and disseminating knowledge on technology entrepreneurship. The Center partners with UW’s Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer to develop business concepts for new technologies with faculty from an array of UW departments.
The shifting landscape of the ecosystem following the dot-com boom and changes in leadership lead to a relatively short lifespan for CTE.

Significant Milestones

Summer 2001 — PEI becomes Center for Technology Entrepreneurship (CTE)
Fall 2003 — First West Coast Research Symposium

This period marks an incredible expansion of academic and extra-curricular programming for the entrepreneurship center in the business school with the return of Connie Bourassa-Shaw as director. Bourassa-Shaw built on the entrepreneurial mindset she helped bring to campus as managing director during the early days of the entrepreneurship program and helped launch successful programs like the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge, the Lavin Entrepreneurship Program, and others while “creating entrepreneurship-related curriculum and building connections with the larger Seattle startup community.”

Significant Milestones

Fall 2005 — CTE becomes Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE)
Winter 2006 — UW sends a team to the Venture Capital Investment Competition
Winter 2006 — Connie Bourassa-Shaw begins 12-year tenure as Center director
Winter 2007 — First Science and Technology Showcase (STS) co-hosted with UW student-run Science & Engineering Business Association (SEBA)
Fall 2007 — Lavin Entrepreneurship Action Program begins with a generous endowment from Leonard Lavin
Fall 2007 — Social Entrepreneurship Course (ENTRE 579) debuts
Fall 2008 — First Environmental Innovation Practicum course
Fall 2008 — Entrepreneurial Marketing class returns (first course offered since 2001)
2008-2009 — UW Tech Transfer office (now CoMotion) provides first licenses to student teams (without an outside hire as CEO): Impel NeuroPharma and Nanocel
Spring 2009 — First Environmental Innovation Challenge (Now Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge)
Summer 2010 — Jones + Foster Accelerator Launched
Fall 2011 — Entrepreneurship Option for undergraduate business students debuts
Fall 2011 — First Prototype Funding awards
Winter 2012 — First Angel Investing Course
Fall 2013 — Entrepreneurship Minor for non-business undergraduate students debuts

CIE becomes the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship thanks to a generous naming gift from longtime benefactor, supporter, advisor, mentor, and friend Arthur W. Buerk. This period marks a significant shift as the Center’s foundational roots are built upon and expanded with an ever-growing array of partners across the UW campus and the Pacific Northwest ecosystem.

Significant Milestones

Winter 2013 – CIE becomes Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship thanks to the significant and long-time support of Arthur W. Buerk
Spring 2013 – Creating a Company instructor John Castle retires
Spring 2014 — First Startup Job Fair
Fall 2015 — First Health Innovation Practicum Course
Fall 2015 — NSF I-Corps Funding Grants begin on campus
Winter 2016 — First Health Innovation Challenge (now Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge)
Spring 2017 — Legendary director Connie Bourassa-Shaw retires from role to launch and lead a new Masters program in Entrepreneurship for one year.
Summer 2017 — Master of Science in Entrepreneurship begins with first cohort.
Summer 2018 — Associate Director Amy Sallin becomes interim director of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship after more than a half-decade of managing the UW Business Plan Competition, Jones + Foster Accelerator, and other high-level duties. Sallin is soon named full-time to the role.
Summer 2018 — Samantha Ogle takes over as director of the Master of Science in Entrepreneurship program with the official retirement of Connie Bourassa-Shaw from UW.
Spring 2019 — Davis Consumer Product Workshop offered
Fall 2021 — Creative Destruction Lab-Seattle Launches at the UW Foster School.
Fall 2021 — Sacia Digital Health Innovation Workshop debuts