Editorial: Ann Dugan fosters future Pitt progress, economic development

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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Ann Dugan founded the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence 20 years ago after an intense debate over whether or not self-employment was indeed a legitimate means to economic prosperity.

“People were telling me that it couldn’t be done at the University of Pittsburgh,” Dugan said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Today, the institute has $22 million at its disposal to form a budget, which is remarkable considering Dugan began with just $300,000. Dugan, however, is moving on. She recently announced that she would be stepping down as executive director of the institute in order to take on an assistant deanship at Pitt’s Katz Graduate School of Business next year.

Her work founding a premier platform for young entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and providing them with the resources to do so has earned her a reputation as an innovator at the University, and her success can only help her to strengthen the Katz school and to stimulate economic development.

“My vision is that I think we could do better in our collective ability to focus on what is really the art of the possible in the region regarding economic development,” Dugan said to the Post-Gazette.

During her tenure, she has facilitated the start-up of 800 new businesses and acquired $300 million in funding for clients, among other achievements. What has been truly interesting, though, is her ability to attract nontraditional forms of funding for clients.

In October, the institute secured a position as a trustee for Kiva Zip, an international entity that serves as a “place for piloting innovations in person-to-person lending,” according to its website. The program provides crowd-funded, no-interest loans between $500 and $5,000 for entrepreneurs looking to access funds to assist in their progress.

To further facilitate economic development, Dugan has been able to partner the institute with Pitt’s Office of Technology Management and Office of Enterprise Development in an effort to enhance the entrepreneurial resources at Pitt. Among many services this collaboration anticipates providing, the goals encompass the encouragement to formulate new businesses and the creation of educational programs for students.

“I’ve been working with some of the top universities around the country, and many of them use higher education as an anchor for economic development,” Dugan noted.

It seems that Dugan’s success here at Pitt can only continue as she shifts her talents toward the Katz school. It’s important to note that her main goal is to spur economic development through higher education.

As Dugan shifts from one school to another, we can be sure that Pitt will continue its success as a hub for entrepreneurial development and remain a viable platform for future entrepreneurs nationwide. 

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