Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership

The Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership facilitates entrepreneurial learning and action for all students and supports entrepreneurship research, with a focus on entrepreneurial education, design, subsistence marketplaces, and social innovation.

The Academy was established in 2004 to help infuse entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking across every academic discipline of the University of Illinois.  This work—in curriculum development, in research, in economic development, and in public engagement—was initially supported by a $4.5M grant from the Kauffman Foundation. We have built on that strong foundation ever since. From its home in Gies College of Business, the Academy works seamlessly with partners across campus and across the globe to support teaching and learning through entrepreneurship.

Our current suite of programs includes:

  • The iVenture Accelerator is the educational accelerator for top student startups at Illinois. Since 2015, it has supported 37 ventures comprising 101 student fellows from nine colleges and 38 fields of study.  Students create commercial, social, and cultural value during the 11-month program. To date, projects have raised more than $2.5 million to support their work.
  • Social Innovation at Illinois is a campus-wide initiative to help Illinois generate even more learning and social impact through its tremendous human and intellectual capital. Created in the 2013 Campus Plan as one of 21 top priorities, Social Innovation supports social-purpose programs in collaboration with partners across campus and in the community.
  • EntreCORPS is a student-run organization supported by the Academy that provides pro bono consulting services to startups.
  • Entrepreneurs without Borders is another student-run organization supported by the Academy to enable entrepreneurship education in subsistence marketplaces while learning to be entrepreneurial in these challenging contexts.
  • The V. Dale Cozad Lecture in Entrepreneurship, a marquee annual lecture, brings in renowned entrepreneurs to share their experiences and insights with the entire university community. Past speakers include Shahid Khan, Mannie Jackson, and Doris Christopher.

Through these programs, AEL covers the gamut of commercial and social entrepreneurship, across geographies and income levels. It provides entrepreneurial education for students as well as low-resource communities around the world.