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More experts, increased support push Carlsen Center toward innovative prominence

Leadership for the Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is (from left): Brian Gladden, entrepreneur-in-residence; Arlene Miranda, administrative systems and operations analyst; Executive Director Cameron Law; Jessie Becker Alexander, entrepreneur-in-residence; and Boniface Michael, faculty-in-residence.

The Dale and Katy Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship continues to make strides, developing programs and access that translates into opportunities and paths for students’ ideas and ambitions to become realities.

Last spring, the center hired two entrepreneurs-in-residence, Jessie Becker Alexander and Brian Gladden. Both spend 15 hours a week consulting one-on-one with Sacramento State student entrepreneurs and community entrepreneurs. They also run the center’s programs and training sessions, such as the Virtual Entrepreneurship Toolkit Series and Lean Innovator Series. They also advise Cameron Law, the center’s executive director, on strategies and program development.

Boniface Michael, associate professor of Management and Organizations, is the center’s first faculty-in-residence. His role is to determine how the Carlsen Center can collaborate with faculty to supplement student classroom learning and to foster creative spaces for faculty to explore ideas for solutions on and off campus.

“We want the Carlsen Center to be a place where students can say, ‘I have an idea. What do you think of it? Where do I go next?’” said Law, whose goal is to establish the center as a regional hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. “We’re trying to foster a safe place for students to come and fail and to ideate and build.

“We talk about the entrepreneurial mindset. We’re unlocking in our students the ability to be problem-solvers and value creators. We offer them connections so that upon graduation, if they want to start a business or jump into someone else’s business, they have a network of support.”

Dale Carlsen ’84 (Business Administration), founder of Sleep Train Mattress Centers, and his wife, Katy, provided $6 million to Sacramento State in November 2017 to establish the interdisciplinary center that bears their name and has a home in the University Library.

Students as well as innovators from the Sacramento region are finding the Carlsen Center to be a place of knowledge, support and growth opportunities, including through annual Global Entrepreneurship Week programs.
Photo by Andrea Price

The Carlsen Center received additional philanthropic support in November 2019 with a $1 million gift from Western Health Advantage (WHA) to name the University’s Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). WHA president/CEO and Carlsen Center board member Garry Maisel ’80 (Business Administration-Finance) made the presentation.

In November 2020, California Bank of Commerce committed $250,000 to the Carlsen Center in support of the center’s mentoring network, which connects student entrepreneurs with an array of experienced advisers.

“Entrepreneurs are the backbone of innovation and business,” said Maisel, also a longtime University Foundation board member. “And business creates jobs, and jobs lead individuals to prosperity, and prosperous individuals really are the backbone of a healthy economy.”

The 2020 GEW was a virtual affair, pivoting, as with so many events, to account for COVID-19 realities.

“I am proud of the quick pivot we have made at the Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to adapt our programming to a 100% virtual setting,” Law said. “We have found that our virtual programming has allowed us to increase our accessibility, allowing us to reach more students and community members with our offerings.

“Additionally, I am proud of the fact that we have been able to serve our community and region through this pandemic through collaboration. Ultimately, we have broken the mold and demonstrated that the center is not just a physical place but a regional resource hub and community.”

Meet the new leaders

Brian Gladden, founder and CEO of the Strategy & Innovation Institute

“I hope to contribute my expertise with proven strategic innovation methods, to help the students and the community of entrepreneurs improve their probability for success and accelerate their time to launch new ventures.

The Carlsen Center has the ability to be the connection point for other institutions, nonprofits, incubators, corporations, public sector, startups, investors, and students.”
Jessie Becker Alexander, co-founder of the medical device company Alydia Health

“I look forward to giving back to Sacramento’s entrepreneurial community. As the recipient of University support in building my own venture, it’s an honor (and a ton of fun) to support young entrepreneurs at Sac State and within the greater Sacramento region.”
Faculty in-residence
Boniface Michael, associate professor of Management and Organizations

“I hope to foster entrepreneurship within the University’s inclusive and compassionate life-changing aspirations for Sac State students. I want to coalesce faculty and staff expertise to seed and mentor students’ innovations into business or social ventures for the Sacramento ecosystem.”

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About Dixie Reid

Dixie Reid has been a writer for Sac State since 2012 after decades as a newspaper reporter. A Texas native with the accent to prove it, Dixie is crazy about “dear friends, big dogs, good books, great food, day trips, baking cookies, California sunshine (and fog), and kind people.”

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