History of the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership

The University of Illinois has had a long and successful track record of producing some of the world’s most revolutionary inventions and innovations, including the first antitoxin for botulism, sound on film, ILLIAC mainframe computers, the MRI, the theory of superconductivity, the transistor, synthetic rubber, the integrated circuit, the light-emitting diode, the MOSAIC web browser, and YouTube. 1  The University of Illinois has also educated some of the modern era’s best-known and most successful entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial business leaders. However, across the campus there was widespread sentiment that there was no cohesive and institution-wide approach to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking per se.

It was against this backdrop that the University of Illinois created the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership (Academy) with the generous support of $4.5M from the Kauffman Foundation in 2004. The mandate for the Academy was to infuse entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking across every academic discipline of the University of Illinois, in curriculum development, in research, and in economic development and public engagement.

The Academy is managed by the College of Business. The College of Business has made an ongoing financial commitment to the Academy’s programs and engages other colleges and schools within the campus in the development and delivery of the Academy’s entrepreneurship programs. The Academy’s Advisory Board consists of nine to twelve individuals – primarily deans – from colleges and schools across campus. The existence of this cross-campus advisory body of substantial stature enabled the Academy to obtain the attention and support of campus leaders at the highest levels.


1. University of Illinois boasts 23 Nobel Prize winners among the University’s faculty and alumni.  See http://illinois.edu/about/overview/facts/nobel.html