Cornelia Huellstrunk, associate director of Princeton University’s Keller Center since 2009, has been appointed to a new position of executive director, reflecting major growth in the center’s efforts to innovate education and to foster entrepreneurship.
“Cornelia has been a driving force in making the Keller Center what it is today and an outstanding manager of a dream team,” said Mung Chiang, the center’s director, Princeton’s Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical Engineering and chair of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council. “As Keller Center continues to grow rapidly and strategically, Cornelia’s remarkable dedication and incredible energy will be essential to our making a positive impact on many hundreds of Princeton students each year.”
The School of Engineering and Applied Science founded the Keller Center as part of a strategic planning process in 2005 with the mission of bridging engineering and the rest of campus. Its programs, which include cross-disciplinary courses as well as co-curricular programs such as internships and entrepreneurial opportunities, engage roughly equal numbers of engineering students and students from all other disciplines. Dennis Keller, a 1963 Princeton alumnus, and his wife, Constance Keller, provided a gift to endow the center in 2008.
When Huellstrunk joined the following year, the center was known for several core programs: its innovative sequence of freshman engineering courses known as EMP for Engineering, Mathematics and Physics; its Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) course; a yearly Innovation Forum, which showcases faculty and graduate student research with commercial potential; and its popular High-Tech Entrepreneurship class, then taught by 1961 alumnus Ed Zschau. The center also ran an internship program that placed a small number of students in internships geared toward building leadership experience.
While each of those efforts has been updated over the years, the Center has also greatly expanded its emphasis both on education innovation and on entrepreneurship and “design thinking.”
“In each of the four pillars of Keller Center programs – Learn, Create, Explore and Engage – Cornelia and the rest of the core team at Keller Center have made visible impact to Princeton campus and to the broader community beyond Princeton’s gates,” said Chiang.
Learn: Today the center offers six to eight entrepreneurship classes per semester. In 2014, a quarter of all graduating seniors had taken at least one entrepreneurship class through the Keller Center. Most recently the Center created and is scaling up a comprehensive curriculum in design thinking, which fosters highly creative and empathetic ways to bring about change and solve seemingly intractable problems, referred to as “wicked problems.” The center has created a unique teaching space specially designed to support the curriculum.
Create: Huellstrunk launched the eLab in 2012, an on-campus startup accelerator now housed in Princeton’s Entrepreneurial Hub at 34 Chambers St. Furthermore, In partnership with many entities on campus, Huellstrunk played a crucial role in the design and definition of the Entrepreneurial Hub, which is serves as a place for entrepreneurial teams to work side-by-side in the co-working space and supports entrepreneurship events.
Explore: Close to 80 students participate every year in one of Keller’s sponsored internship programs either domestically or abroad. Through the REACH program, which Huellstrunk created in 2010, over 75 students have participated in an immersive research and cultural experience. The program sends Princeton students to partner universities in Germany, Hong Kong and Taiwan to conduct research and in turn welcomes international students to Princeton to do research in the labs of Princeton professors.
Engage: The Keller Center offers students, faculty, staff and community members many opportunities to engage with one another, from dynamic large-venue lectures, to round-table discussions, and from campus-specific workshops to open community exchanges. It hosts two signature events every year, the Innovation Forum in February and two eLab Demo Days in August in Princeton and New York City.
To support these initiatives the Keller team has grown significantly in the last two years. In the coming months, the center is planning to launch three new programs: the Princeton Startup Immersion Program in which selected students spend a summer together in a city such as New York, each working for a different start-up company while participating in joint activities and programs; Tiger Challenge, a co-curricular initiative rooted in design thinking enabling teams of students to address “wicked” societal problems; and Keller Center Online, an inspirational web portal for entrepreneurs, innovators and design thinkers.
“The future for the Keller Center is looking very bright,” Huellstrunk said. “I am tremendously excited about the curricular offerings and the co-curricular experiences that have been customized for Princeton students. The execution on all of these new initiatives would not have been possible without my team, an amazing group of dedicated, talented and passionate colleagues who put their heart into their work. It is immensely inspiring to work at Princeton with so many smart and creative students, colleagues and in close partnership with the broader entrepreneurial eco-system.”