Monsour’s role at the center, which was established last year, is to expand relationships between academia and industry. In particular, he is spearheading two lecture series, an internship program and a blog.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to be a bridge between the people at Princeton who are doing intellectually stimulating research and the people in industry who know how to transform brilliant ideas into real-world technology,” said Monsour.
One of Monsour’s priorities is to expand and strengthen ties between employers and Princeton Engineering students through internships. In a survey that Monsour conducted in August, engineering undergraduates expressed enormous interest in internships and listed firms in areas ranging from aerospace to pharmaceuticals as their top choices of employers.
“Internships are a win-win proposition,” said Monsour. “For students they are a no-risk way to explore real life. They offer employers the opportunity to see whether a talented undergraduate might make a good fit as a future hire.”
Monsour also is helping to organize two lecture series. On Oct. 19, Norman Augustine, former chairman and chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin Corp., will deliver the inaugural talk in a new series titled “Leadership in a Technological World.” And in partnership with the Jumpstart New Jersey Angel Network, CIEE will host a lecture series on technology entrepreneurship. The first lecture, on Oct. 25, will be a panel discussion of entrepreneurial experiences and opportunities created by the emergence of India as a technology power. The event, which includes a reception, will be free and open to the public.
Monsour himself knows a thing or two about the white-knuckle thrills of the entrepreneurial life. In 1983, he was one of the founders of Stac Electronics, which later developed a compression software product called Stacker that doubled disk capacity — a revolutionary feat in the days of 20-megabyte disk drives.
While Stacker seemed an overnight sensation, in fact the company had struggled through typical startup tribulations during its early years.
“The PC boom was underway, and we knew we would have a role in it but we just didn’t know what that role would be,” Monsour recalled. “At first we were a company in search of a product and then we became a technology in search of a market.”
Monsour and the other founders threw themselves and their assets into the company (in Monsour’s case, he borrowed cash from his parents and maxed out three credit cards). He said he knew the tide had turned when Stacker won several major honors, including the coveted PC Magazine Technical Excellence award, catching the eye of Microsoft, which went on to develop its own compression product.
Soon, however, a David and Goliath patent battle developed between little Stac and big Microsoft. In the end David won and the jury ordered Microsoft to pay Stac $120 million.
In the years since he left Stac, Monsour has been an angel investor (he was one of the founding members of JumpStart New Jersey) and has been extensively involved in his son’s school, Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, serving as vice chair of the board of trustees.
Monsour recently established a blog on the CIEE homepage that is already generating a buzz. Monsour posts excerpts of articles about entrepreneurship and innovative ways to teach engineering, offering up a dollop of commentary when appropriate.
Recent posts include snippets of articles about introverted CEOs, the trend toward interdisciplinary education in engineering education, and the role of optimism in entrepreneurship. This last post quotes Jeff Bezos, a Princeton Engineering graduate, as saying that “optimism is an essential quality for doing anything hard — entrepreneurial endeavors or anything else.”
Monsour started the blog to illuminate the dynamic nature of engineering and innovation. “It’s fun, and I’m glad for the attention it’s getting. But blogs work well only if they are kept alive with new content. I guess I am optimistic about my ability to keep it fresh.”
To read Monsour’s blog, learn more about the Princeton Engineering’s internship program, or to find the schedule for the two lecture series, visit the CIEE website at http://kellercenter.princeton.edu.