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Cory Hallam
Cory Hallam

UTSA First-Year Faculty: Cory Hallam, director of the Center for Innovation Technology and Entrepreneurship

By Lydia Fletcher
Special Projects Writer, UTSA '07

(Aug. 9, 2007)--Cory Hallam joined the UTSA College of Business faculty in the Department of Information Systems and Technology Management. He brings to UTSA his experience with the MIT aerospace engineering program and his work in the private sector.

At UTSA, he is director of the Center for Innovation Technology and Entrepreneurship.

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LF: Where were you before UTSA, and what are you working on here?

CH: I've got four college degrees. I did my undergraduate work in Canada -- I'm Canadian -- soon to be American, hopefully. I did my undergraduate in Canada in aerospace engineering, then I went to MIT to do my graduate work, and I did a master's in aerospace and another master's in technology and policy.

I took an academic position at MIT for a few years, then my Ph.D. in technology management policy, really looking at the aerospace industry in the U.S. and how you apply Toyota-style thinking... How to structure, how to operate, how to run your company. So that was very interesting. I worked for Northrop Grumman for a while, applying what I had developed in my Ph.D. to their corporate activities. And then to one of their suppliers as a program manager on the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft project.

And then at that point, I had lunch with Dr. Romo here in San Antonio, and we were just talking about what was going on at UTSA, and he happened to mention that the dean of business and the dean of engineering were thinking of setting up a center for entrepreneurship. And really, that was it.

They really wanted to go from there, so I met with them, and for me it was exciting -- a start-up idea, getting things going. And I love teaching -- one of the reasons I did a Ph.D. was because I really love teaching. It was the best of all worlds: it gave me to opportunity to teach in the College of Business and the College of Engineering, and do research across both and start the center.

LF: Tell me about the center.

CH: If you look at it, most universities train their students to work for other people, but most of the wealth creation and the new job creation in the country is by the entrepreneurs -- over 60 percent of the new jobs in the country are small business or entrepreneurial businesses. What are we doing as UTSA, the fastest growing member of the UT System, to foster that and make that happen?

There's nothing wrong with going to work for someone, but I think there's a lot more people who could do a lot more good by starting their own businesses. There are so many good ideas out there. So, really, the goal for the Center for Innovation Technology and Entrepreneurship is to build a place that does four things for our students at UTSA: 1. gives them education in entrepreneurship, 2. gives them experiences, so before they put their house on the line or their mortgage, they experience entrepreneurship, 3. then, if they want to start something, they have resources -- we have a hatchery here for new businesses for students: we have space, computers, the business plan lab, 4. then once they're up and running we give what support we can, we connect them to the Institute for Economic Development, as well as other areas in town.

There's already an infrastructure in town that supports young start-up companies, but what was missing, we saw, was a pipeline. I want in 10 years to be on the cover of Fortune magazine or Forbes... "How does UTSA do it?" I want to brand UTSA as the place to go to start high-tech companies... where students get that hands-on experience.

LF: What is one of the things you have done to help students?

CH: One of the things we did as an experiment last year was we said, we've got students in engineering who spend a year designing new products. Traditionally they would design it, build it, show it, get a grade, throw it in the garbage and go off to their job. What we are doing is patenting the best ones. We'll work with those students, their names will be on the patent. What a great thing... to graduate from your undergraduate course with your first patent. And we're teaming up with business students that have to do business plans.

So, instead of doing paper studies, here they do a business plan for a new technology that just happens to be what the engineers are working on. So, it gives both sides some hands-on experience -- the business students get some hands-on with the technology, and the engineering students get to understand the questions that you really have to focus on from a business perspective.

We ran that as an experiment and we're going to extend that this year to the first technology start-up competition on campus, where we're teaming up the B.B.A. in entrepreneurship with undergraduates in engineering, and they will do a final joint presentation of the technology and the business plan. We will patent whatever the winners have, and we will work with them to give them the opportunity to start up a company. At the end of the competition, if they're good enough, there will be people on the judging panel who will be able to write a check or be able to say, "Here's the money that you need to start this company and we'll start it." We'll spin them off into a legitimate company.

We started the center last fall, and we're now about half a year into it. We've done a lot, but we don't want to try to do everything at once. Each time we go through one of these steps, if it goes well, we formally make it part of the program. Each time we try one of these activities, we're going to look at it, see the outcome and how everyone came through it, and if it works, try to put it in place.

And so one of the things we're doing to help that is have the College of Education and Human Development study how students' minds change -- or don't change, for that matter -- as a result of these experiences. Because we want to know, does it really do anything? We're actually studying beforehand and after the fact how students' perceptions change about entrepreneurship and technology entrepreneurship. Are they predisposed? We have some preliminary data that shows how the engineers feel, whether they are ready or not to start companies, versus how the business majors feel. Kind of understanding from the baseline, once they team up and work together, do things change? Are the business students afraid of technology?

Maybe they're not afraid of technology. Maybe once they learn about it, they'll be afraid of it -- I don't know. Maybe there are just open questions. We're trying to understand how we design good entrepreneurship education. People will say you're born an entrepreneur and others will say, "No, you can learn it." I'm not sure where I stand on that, but I do think we can unlock it. If it's in you, we can give experiences that will unlock that.

LF: You describe a little bit about the kinds of courses that you're teaching that bridge business and engineering and you've talked about the business side, but what other classes are you developing on the science side?

CH: Well, we're not trying to create new courses so much, because there are already a lot of interesting courses happening. We're trying to create the connections between them. So, for example, in the management of technology program they are starting to run a high-tech business course, MOT 5253, which is a great course. It walks us through the nuts and bolts of "I've got my idea," to "I've developed it," "I've patented it," "I've put together my business plan," "I've raised money."

But typically it's only been management of technology students, when it's open to the whole college. In fact, you've got a lot of graduate students in biology, a lot of graduate students in computer science and engineering -- and we're trying to get them involved so that they can take the class and use the technology that they're developing as part of their graduate work and use that as the basis for developing their business plan.

LF: How are you enjoying teaching at UTSA?

CH: I love it. It's a wonderful campus. There's a lot of research going on right now on campus. The student population is great... it's growing. I think there's a lot of good work going on between colleges. And I think that's really great to see on campuses, and I hope that as they move toward tier-one research status, they don't lose that. It's great to get collaboration across departments, across colleges. In fact, some of the neatest research, some of the neatest discoveries occur cross-discipline. And so, I hope that as they move toward tier-one people, don't become so "siloed" that they can only see their own little world, instead of the issues that exist across the different worlds.

LF: What is your favorite movie and TV show, and what hobbies do you have?

CH: My favorite TV show is "The Office," and that's because I worked in the telecommunications world for a while, and you can really see the similarities between people you've met and jobs and experiences and the show. But I also like "The Universe," the show that talks about the development of the universe. To me, that's always fascinating -- the evolution and the creation of the universe. It's mind-boggling when you think about the scale that you deal with there. So, I like that.

Favorite movie... It has to be "Star Wars." I was four years old when the first one came out, and I went to see it and ever since then I've wanted to be an astronaut. I used to race triathlons. I'm trying to get back into that. I'm training for that. I was trying to bike to work, but biking on 1604 is a bit scary. I love cooking and food... I love trying new foods, I love cooking new foods. I love traveling to find what kinds of new foods there are. Nice beaches and mountain scenery are nice fill-in between the next meal.

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