Local universities continue to be one of our startup community’s greatest assets—not only do they educate and produce talent that feeds into the startup community but they train students to become entrepreneurs and they employ professors and researchers who develop and commercialize groundbreaking innovation. 
There’s a team of people on every campus that help to connect faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members with various programs and opportunities, all to promote innovation and economic development in the state of North Carolina.
In the second of a series of Q&As with university leaders across the state, meet some of the folks making it happen at Appalachian State University, UNC-Asheville and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

Mary Lynn Manns

Professor of Management and Accountancy
UNC Asheville
Brief overview of your job/role with the university 
In addition to teaching at the university, I’m coordinator of the Ideas to Action initiative, a program for students who want to take their ideas to the next level by working in interdisciplinary teams to design social entrepreneurship ventures. Our iterative approach to product development emphasizes research throughout academic and community sources and provides mentorship from professional entrepreneurs and other community leaders.

How does your background contribute to your role in entrepreneurship programming? 
I’m the author of several books including Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas and More Fearless Change: Strategies for Making Your Ideas Happen. I have a Ph.D. in information systems, an MBA and teach courses that range from management science and management information systems to social entrepreneurship and women changing the world.

What’s an extra proud moment from your time in your role? 
After only two years, the Ideas to Action initiative has yielded statewide competition winners and two-year funding to support project growth. Our next steps are to find additional funding as well as opportunities for students to prototype their projects. Emerging opportunities for students to continue in off-campus presentations and competitions and in prototype development. Two very recent UNC Asheville resources—the River Arts Makers Place (RAMP) lab for innovation and collaboration and the Center for Creative Entrepreneurship recently launched by UNC Asheville and the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design—are likely to offer exciting possibilities for students to advance from paper to product.
A fun fact about yourself? 
I did the UNC Asheville commencement speech in 2013 and led the students in Zumba. The video, and more info about me, can be found here.