By Lopa Rahman ’16
Howie Rhee is the face of Duke I&E for undergraduate and graduate students and alumni, helping guide and build connections for those with startup ideas.
Q: What does your role as Managing Director for Student and Alumni Affairs entail?
A: My goal is to support students and alumni, wherever they are located and whatever endeavors they are taking on. To that end, I meet with about 20-25 students and alumni per week. We talk about their careers and if they are starting a company, their companies as well. Often times their startup ideas are a manifestation of their career goals, so we discuss their careers holistically. I’m open to meeting any member of the Duke community, which include undergraduates, Fuqua Business School, Law, Medicine, and grad students of all backgrounds. I spend time talking to many alumni each week, whether they’ve graduated a year ago or twenty years prior. I strongly believe that Duke’s role is to provide lifelong support to our students and alumni, through an approachable community and very customized mentorship and education.
Q: What programs and groups do you help run and advise?
A: My two main programs at Duke are Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs (with the support of Melissa Bernstein ’87 and her husband Doug), which is the premiere program for Duke undergraduates interested in entrepreneurship; and the Program for Entrepreneurs (with Jon Fjeld a professor at Fuqua Business School), which is a sequence of structured courses that allows students across Duke to work on a startup while receiving course credit. In addition, I run several different programs including the Duke Startup Challenge, Duke Global Entrepreneurship Network (DukeGEN) with T. Reid Lewis and Matt Koidin, and StartupConnect with Brandon Sassouni. More information about all of these programs can be found at our Duke I&E website.
I also spend a lot of time advising and supporting clubs and student organizations including The Cube, HackDuke, and the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club. I focus on reaching into student communities as much as possible and making myself available to any student who wants to have a conversation. Across these efforts, we run about 30 events a year, and have a couple of active social media groups that include several thousand Duke students and alumni. On the research side, while I am not a researcher myself, I do my best to support the research efforts that my colleagues have in studying entrepreneurship at a deeper level.
Q: What else should students know about your role?
A: As an undergraduate at MIT, I was very interested in entrepreneurship but I felt too intimidated and confused to figure out who in the administration at MIT I could reach out to for support. To give a sense of my level of interest, I started a company while I was a junior and actually left school for a year to move to New York City and focus on my company. But, for whatever reason, I didn’t know how to take advantage of entrepreneurship resources beyond the classes that were offered at MIT, even though there were ample resources. Now I make it a priority to put myself out there for the students and alumni at Duke. We have a LinkedIn Group with 7,000 members, a mailing list with 10,000 members, and various listservs with about 2,500 current students – I’m always happy to chat and help in whatever way I can, often by making introductions to potential mentors and resources.
Q: What is the easiest way for students to get involved with entrepreneurship at Duke?
A: There are many on-ramps to getting involved in entrepreneurship at Duke. We have numerous programs Duke-wide and dozens of people that work in Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship to help get students involved. I would recommend that students reach out as early as possible in their Duke careers to have a conversation, and to start exploring all options. As an example, students should feel free to email me directly. Amongst other things we can discuss, we can help connect you to alumni for further conversations, as we have many alumni who are willing to mentor students and do so on a regular basis. For example, George Northup is a Duke alum who has had a very successful career in Silicon Valley and sold four companies. I probably connect him with a new Duke student each week and there are many other alumni like George who have graciously donated their time in this way. I am always happy to connect students with alumni mentors to further their thinking about their careers and their entrepreneurial aspirations.
Howie can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 919-923-7113, or scheduled directly at http://calendly.com/howrhee.