The New Leaf Initiative – A New Coworking Space in Downtown State College

by Dr. Tim Simpson

NewLeafFlyerIf you are student, undergraduate or graduate, or faculty member wanting to do entrepreneurial “things” and haven’t heard of New Leaf Initiative yet, you are missing out on some great networking opportunities and are probably not aware of the new coworking space that is opening this February in State College.

New Leaf started more than 3 years ago by Spud Marshall, Christian Baum, and Eric Sauder, and has become an integral member of our local entrepreneurial ecosystem. When New Leaf first opened, it operated out of 100 South Fraser Street—across the street from Hammond Building, beneath Dunkin Donuts, the same place Freeze Thaw Cycles began. Marshall and Baum have since spun-out, leaving Sauder and Serena Fulton, the newest edition to the team, to run New Leaf.

Now, New Leaf is on the verge of opening a 2,500 sq. foot coworking space in the 3rd floor of the State College Borough Building, located at 243 South Allen Street, one building south of the Schlow Library. New Leaf offers a variety of coworking memberships, which provide either 10, 20, or 40 hours per week of access to desks and private meeting space. The rates are reasonable and all inclusive, and more than 20 companies and local entrepreneurs have signed up thus far (full house is about 36 members, and they are gunning for >80% occupancy when they open next month).

So how do I know so much about New Leaf and their new endeavor?  Well, New Leaf has been my “secret office” in town while I’ve been on sabbatical (did you see me in their photos yet?). Working at New Leaf has provided unique insight into our local entrepreneurial ecosystem, from literally right across the street. It has been a great way to network with local entrepreneurs in a range of industries, as well as get to know people working in the Borough and Chamber of Business and Industry Centre County. There are some phenomenal people who are working very hard to make State College and Happy Valley a mecca for recruiting talented entrepreneurs into the area and, more importantly, providing opportunities to students and alumni to stay in the area to work on their latest invention and innovation. I’ve been renting my own desk space in New Leaf, and I’ve lost count of how many students and faculty I’ve helped connect to local ecosystem. It’s worked equally well in reverse, as I’ve been able to help connect many local entrepreneurs with people and resources at Penn State. In fact, being on the outside this year has been very eye opening in many regards, including how difficult it is for local entrepreneurs to navigate the wealth of resources at Penn State and connect with the right people (maybe it’s time for a 1-800-PSU-ESHIP number?).

There are other incubators and office spaces in town, and Penn State is involved with two facilities: (1) Technology Center at Innovation Park and (2) Zetachron in Science Park. Rates vary depending on what you need (e.g., $14-16/sq. ft. for office space; $20/sq. ft. and up for wet lab space), and there are some cool start-ups incubating there now. More important, however, is the list of successful former tenants of which I was previously unaware. It’s an impressive list when you read it.

I think New Leaf’s coworking space will complement these existing incubator spaces well and provide a shared working space within walking distance of campus, which may be attractive to students and faculty just starting out on their entrepreneurial journey. I’ve put down my own money (not PSU’s money or my grant money) for a 10hr/week membership, and I’m looking forward to helping shape the culture in this new space while continuing my entrepreneurial cross-training.

If this interests you and you want to learn more the New Leaf Initiative and their coworking space, check out the Grand Opening is Wed, Feb. 5 from 4-6pm in 243 South Allen Street.

Tim Simpson is a professor in both mechanical engineering and industrial engineering. He holds affiliate appointments in the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP) and the College of Information Sciences & Technology. From 2007-2012, he served as director of the Learning Factory, and now he serves as co-Director of the Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D), a DARPA-funded Manufacturing Demonstration Facility for Additive Manufacturing. This is his second sabbatical. 

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Entrepreneurial Cross-Training – More Questions than Answers

by Dr. Tim Simpson

So what does it really take to get a good idea to market? How much of that can I do as a faculty member and how do I avoid conflicts of interest with my research and my students? How should I be advising my graduate students to take their ideas forward and what should I be teaching undergraduates interested in design innovation?

These are the sorts of questions that I’m investigating by immersing myself in our local entrepreneurial ecosystem during my sabbatical. I’m hoping that this “entrepreneurial cross-training” will provide insight not only into the problems that we encounter (as faculty and as students) in bringing ideas to market but also into the “innovation assets” that are available to help at Penn State and in our local ecosystem.

What I have seen thus far is both exciting and overwhelming. It is exciting because there is considerably more going on now than there was five years ago, let alone last year. At the same time, it is overwhelming because there is so much going on across departments and colleges. While small pockets of activities may be coordinated, there is little to no coordination of these entrepreneurial activities across the university, which is both good and bad. Good because we need to explore many different models for innovation and tech transfer in order to learn what works best within our institutional culture. It’s bad when efforts are duplicated and resources are wasted, or we miss synergies between those with the passion and energy to get things done and those trying to effect change. Like any other large organization that struggles with getting everyone on the same page, we need to find new ways to communicate effectively about something that was on few people’s radar screens last year.

So while I don’t have all the answers, and I never will, I at least know the questions to ask. This is where learning starts—when you realize that you don’t know something, and you can start to ask questions and find the right people to answer them. To share where I am at in my learning, here are the questions you should be asking yourself:

Undergraduate Students

Graduate Students


Finding the solutions is the tough part. It requires work and lots of networking, and then more networking, and more networking, which is what I’m spending most of my time doing on sabbatical. I’m co-working in New Leaf, helping organize events for, advising the development of networking website for State College, HappyValleyStartUps, helping a former graduate student launch and grow DecisionVis, participating in TechCelerator and “triage sessions” to see how Ben Franklin and SBDC work with faculty, sitting in on Cool Blue Mentoring meetings to see how MIT’s Venture Mentoring Services gets adapted to our ecosystem, and attending SCORE workshops to meet others in the community, shadowing local entrepreneurs and start-ups to hear their stories, talking to students about commercializing their ideas, co-developing a product based on what I’ve learned, and figuring out what and how to bring all this back into Penn State to benefit our faculty, students, and tech transfer opportunities because we are lagging behind many other universities.

Why are we behind? It’s not for lack of trying mind you. We have a phenomenal entrepreneurial ecosystem emerging here, and everyone is doing the best they can with the time they have. If this interests you, then get involved and share your ideas and input on ways to improve our ecosystem and help answer the questions you have about getting your ideas to market.

Tim Simpson is a professor in both mechanical engineering and industrial engineering. He holds affiliate appointments in the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP) and the College of Information Sciences & Technology. From 2007-2012, he served as director of the Learning Factory, and now he serves as co-Director of the Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D), a DARPA-funded Manufacturing Demonstration Facility for Additive Manufacturing. This is his second sabbatical. 


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Engineering Leadership Development Faculty and Students Return to Benin

With the assembled baobab machine: kneeling: Kelly Mulcahey: standing (l to r): Anthony Aliberti, Manan Gill, Emma Hocker, Dan Normanyo, Dr. Kodzo Gbewonyo, BioResources International, and Chris Hersh.

With the assembled baobab machine: kneeling: Kelly Mulcahey: standing (l to r): Anthony Aliberti, Manan Gill, Emma Hocker, Dan Normanyo, Dr. Kodzo Gbewonyo, BioResources International, and Chris Hersh.

by Mike Erdman, Walter L Robb Director of Engineering Leadership Development

Dr. Brice Sinsin, Rector of the University of Abomey Calavi (UAC), traveled half-way across the globe to visit Penn State in the summer of 2013 and Penn State returned the favor over Thanksgiving break later that year. Penn State has been collaborating with UAC, in Cotonou, Benin, on the development of mechanized processes for agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. These efforts include improving the processing of the highly nutritious indigenous fruit, baobab, as well as developing methods to extract a butter substitute from another local crop, pentadesma.

The team at the facility at the University of Abomey Calavi. First row (l to r):  Anthony Aliberti, Kelly Mulcahey, and Emma Hocker.  Standing (l to r): Dr. Flora Chadare, Manan Gill, Dr. Alphonse Quenum, Dr. Yann Madode, Dr. Julien Adounvo, Chris Hersh, and Mike Erdman

The team at the facility at the University of Abomey Calavi. First row (l to r): Anthony Aliberti, Kelly Mulcahey, and Emma Hocker. Standing (l to r): Dr. Flora Chadare, Manan Gill, Dr. Alphonse Quenum, Dr. Yann Madode, Dr. Julien Adounvo, Chris Hersh, and Mike Erdman

Mike Erdman, Walter L. Robb Director of Engineering Leadership Development at Penn State, visited Benin in January 2013 with students Erick Froede and Alyssa Joslin, and invited Dr. Sinsin to visit Penn State to further discuss opportunities for research and development. While here, Dr. Sinsin met with President Rodney Erickson, Vice Provost for Global Programs, Michael Adewumi, College of Engineering Associate Dean Renata Engel, and many others. Erdman returned to Benin in November with a team of 5 students – Kelly Mulcahey, Chris Hersh, Anthony Aliberti, Emma Hocker, and Manan Gill – where they delivered a new baobab processing machine for use in a cooperative farm in the north of Benin. While there, Dr. Sinsin invited them to provide a seminar to students and faculty on leadership and to tour various parts of the University and sights in southern Benin, including the Ouidah slave route and Python Temple.


For more information about Penn State’s ongoing work to develop an efficient baobab machine, read the Fall 2012 issue of Engineering Penn State.

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ESM Alumni Advisory Board – Hard at Work for the Department

by Rick Schutz (’72 E SC)

Rick SchutzWe, as Penn State alums, generally feel a pretty strong love and affinity for Penn State…and we typically want to give something back to good ‘ole State. The same goes for many Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) grads. How can we help current students in ESM to best prepare for good jobs, to make significant impacts in their workplaces and communities, and, in the best case, to make the world a better place?  As someone with many years of experience in the engineering working world I felt that maybe I could help in this effort. This is why I got involved in the ESM Alumni Advisory Board.

Once I got involved with the Board and heard about the current programs and research activities, I was blown away. One example is the intersection of engineering mechanics and medicine; this marriage is leading to once inconceivable breakthroughs. Along these lines, ESM and the Penn State Hershey Medical Center/College of Medicine is now offering a joint MD/PhD  that focuses on developing a new generation of physician engineering scientists who will bring transformational impacts to our society…now that’s what I call interdisciplinary!  Next, how can the study of why water bugs can walk on water or why geckos can stick to walls be important to the real world…would you believe it can help increase the efficiency of turbines?  Examples like this abound!

ESM Alumni SocietyThe mission of the Board is to advance the department’s world-wide recognition by recruiting and retaining diverse, quality students then preparing these students for the work environment while promoting the understanding, attractiveness and perceived value of ESM in industry, research and academia.

The group has 18 members from diverse fields of academia and industry who have benefited from the wonderful multidisciplinary training we all received in ESM. The board is comprised of professors, CEOs of small companies, consultants and small business owners with graduation years ranging from 1960 to 2012! That’s a lot of practical real-life engineering experience!

The Board is currently working to help not only current ESM students but also the department in areas of recruiting, communications, awards, informal mentoring and student/industry networking. As such, we’ve defined four major committees to accomplish these goals: communications and public relations; student and industrial relations; department and university relations; and development and alumni relations.

If you have the same desire I do to put your experience to work helping the department and its students make a mark in the world, get involved with our Board. Contact Jim Smiley, Board chairman, at or Emily Gallagher, ESM alumni coordinator, at for more information.


Rick Schutz is an independent computer software professional in the Washington, DC area. For fifteen years, he was a department manager at PEC Solutions. Prior to this, he worked as an advisory engineer for IBM.

A member of the Engineering Science and Mechanics Alumni Society, serving as chair of the board’s communications and public relations committee, Rick earned a master’s in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. At Penn State, he was a member of Tau Beta Pi, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and the Penn Statesmen jazz band.

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Working with Global Teams

by Dean A. Lippold

Dean LippoldChances are high that in your career you will work on a global team. The team might be composed of people from different countries all working in the same office or it may be a dispersed team with its members spread out across several countries. A global team might involve you working in another country leading a team of local nationals.

These diverse teams can be of extreme value to the organization if harnessed effectively. Conversely, if ineffectively managed the teams may withdraw into themselves, providing little in the form of productive output and causing irreparable damage to the team and to the organization they are meant to serve.

When working with global teams, you must do more than you would in traditional team. The following points should be carefully considered in order to maximize the team’s success:

Communicate Effectively. Over communication may be important to ensure everyone gets the latest information, especially if teams are widely dispersed and time is short.  But communicating in the wrong manner will derail a team and cause a loss of time in the end. Consider the following when sharing information with global teams:

    • In what form does each individual embrace information most effectively?
    • Typically a person from a low context country, such as the United States, Germany and Sweden, prefers to communicate in a direct, transactional fashion. Conversely, a person from a high context culture (ie: Far East, Middle East and South American countries) views relationship building as an important part of the communication process.
    • Communication must increase in proportion to the diversity of the team and the distance the team members are from one another.

Appreciate the Values. It is important to understand not just what people do, but also why they find value in doing so. Understanding the value of the team’s customs and approaches will help you discover clues on how to effectively motivate the team, as well as help you establish respect with them.

Team Building. It is important that you encourage and sustain collaboration, especially in a team that is culturally diverse and/or dispersed. The team must not only work with you, but you will also need to ensure they are working effectively with each other.

Establishing Credibility and Respect. You will often be required to participate from a distance or in an environment where you have no previous history. To be effective over the long run, you must quickly build respect and credibility by going out of your way to help, learning from the team, and meeting in person during the initial stages of the team’s formation.

Spending time thinking about and adjusting your individual style to these points will help you become more effective when working with global teams.  Often times, just demonstrating to the team that you are serious about these points will go a long way to helping you and the team be successful.

Mr. Lippold is currently Vice President of Research and Development at Dean Foods, Broomfield, Co. He has spent his career working for top companies within the food & beverage industry where he has been responsible for developing new products, packages and processes, cross-functional team leadership, and organizational development.  He has held assignments in the U.S. as well as abroad, which have given him first-hand experience and appreciation of the challenges associated with leading multicultural and dispersed teams. Mr. Lippold graduated from Penn State in 1991 with a degree in chemical engineering.


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