Carnegie Mellon University

Dear Members of the Carnegie Mellon University Community:

I am pleased to share an important step in the development of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, a hub for campus-wide entrepreneurial activities that builds on our strengths in enterprise creation and entrepreneurial research and education.

The center was made possible last summer by a transformational $31 million gift from alumnus and venture capitalist James R. Swartz (TPR’66). Since then, a group of faculty, staff and university leaders have been meeting to map the best ways in which the Swartz Center can accelerate our efforts to bring breakthrough ideas and technologies to market, a critical way in which this university makes a difference in the world.

Today, it gives me great pleasure to announce the appointment of Dave Mawhinney as executive director of the Swartz Center and Lenore Blum and Jonathan Cagan as faculty co-directors.

As an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, angel investor and educator, Dave Mawhinney contributes extensive knowledge and experience spanning the innovation ecosystem. Not only did he co-lead our Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) and act as executive director of the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship at the Tepper School of Business, but he also co-founded four startups, including mSpoke, an Internet content and advertising recommendation engine that was bought by LinkedIn in 2010.

As co-director of CIE and founding director of Project Olympus, an indispensable program within the Swartz Center, Lenore Blum, the Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science, has helped countless students and faculty members turn cutting-edge ideas into early stage startups. In doing so, she has encouraged a climate, culture and community that enable talent and ideas to grow at CMU, in Pittsburgh and across the region. I am especially pleased that in addition to her role as faculty co-director of the Swartz Center, Lenore will continue her outstanding work as founding director of Project Olympus.

An expert in product development and design and an entrepreneur in his own right, Jonathan Cagan, the George Tallman and Florence Barrett Ladd Professor in Engineering, serves as co-director of CMU’s Integrated Innovation Institute, an initiative that unites design, engineering and business and trains students to become elite innovators. A reflection of our visionary approach to cross-disciplinary entrepreneurial programs, the institute will act as an important partner of the Swartz Center, enhancing and complementing its mission.

Dave, Lenore and Jon already have had a profound impact on the entrepreneurial culture at CMU. I am confident in their ability to take these efforts even further by leading the Swartz Center in its vision to:

  • Make CMU a destination of choice for world talent in entrepreneurship, among both faculty and students;
  • Create winning ventures out of university research and ideas; and
  • Cultivate a strong network of alumni and partners for current and future entrepreneurship activities.

I have appointed a Steering Committee, chaired by Dave Mawhinney, to assess our current slate of entrepreneurship programs and to develop an aspirational blueprint for the Swartz Center, with a specific plan for next steps. I am grateful to the members serving on this Steering Committee, including Lenore Blum; Jonathan Cagan; Robert Dammon, dean of the Tepper School; Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science; Marcel Bruchez, director of the Molecular Biosensors and Imaging Center in the Mellon College of Science; Rick Siger, director of Strategic Initiatives and Engagement; Robert Wooldridge, associate vice provost for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation; and Tim Zak, director of the Institute for Social Innovation in the Heinz College.

The establishment of this leadership team marks a crucial transition in the development of the Swartz Center and I look forward to seeing how their ideas will help CMU foster the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Please join me in congratulating Dave, Lenore and Jon on their new roles within the Swartz Center.


Farnam Jahanian
Provost and Chief Academic Officer