Business & Economy

Rick Duke named founding director of Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of West Florida

The University of West Florida announces Joel R. “Rick” Duke as founding director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of West Florida College of Business.

In July 2015, UWF announced the formation of the Center for Entrepreneurship through a $1 million gift commitment from Quint and Rishy Studer. Thanks to the Studers’ generosity, the Center will encourage and support educational initiatives related to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking while serving as a comprehensive resource for economic innovation for students, industry and community partners. The Center is housed in the UWF College of Business, and Duke will report to Dr. Tim O’Keefe, dean of the College of Business.

“We are truly excited to welcome Rick Duke as founding director of our new Center for Entrepreneurship,” said O’Keefe. “Rick brings with him a wealth of experience from his leadership positions in entrepreneurship, innovation and economic development at several high-profile organizations. His proven abilities to marshal resources, craft and lead effective organizational frameworks, and build strategic partnerships are the precise combination of skills needed to successfully launch our new center.”

photoDuke’s experience in entrepreneurship and economic development includes 25 years at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he worked from 1984 to 2009. He served in a variety of roles in economic development at Georgia Tech, culminating as General Manager for Business Development at the Enterprise Innovation Institute. He also spent four years as Director of the Economic Development Institute, which was named the “best university-based economic development organization in the country” by Innovation Associates in 2005.

Duke then transitioned to the the University of Southern Mississippi where he was hired in 2010 to lead the startup of the Trent Lott National Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship, a university-based community engagement enterprise. His most recent position was Director for Economic Development and Executive Director for Insight Park at the University of Mississippi. In that role, Duke established a framework for the technology incubator and research park marketing plan and engaged the university community to identify knowledge assets suited for both economic development and university-industry partnerships.

“I am looking forward to being a part of the university-community team during the startup and growth of the Center for Entrepreneurship,” said Duke. “The Center will work to leverage what the University does best: develop human capital, create new knowledge and transfer knowledge toward positive economic and social outcomes and big wins for Northwest Florida.”

The Center for Entrepreneurship hosts activities and initiatives related to creating a culture of entrepreneurial thinking. Quint Studer serves as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence to mobilize a professional network of entrepreneurs that will positively impact the Center through contributions to advisement, seminars, classes, workshops and a host of other initiatives.

“The results of exceptional public and private sector growth are certainly evident in the greater Pensacola area,” explained Duke. “The University is located in an exceptional community with all the assets necessary to build on an already broad entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Center for Entrepreneurship will be an adaptive community partner in nurturing that entrepreneurial spirit, particularly among our student body.”

For more information about the UWF Center for Entrepreneurship, visit