Director Spotlight: Dr. Ashley Mahoney

Dr. Ashley Mahoney has always been passionate about combining STEM education with tangible skills that students can use long after they finish their degree. Now, as the new Director of MIN-Corps and Co-Director of the Great Lakes I-Corps Hub, she has the opportunity to grow entrepreneurship education throughout Midwest Universities. We sat down with Ashley and asked some questions to learn more about her and the exciting possibilities for the future. 


Dr. Ashley Mahoney


Tell us a little about yourself, your previous position, and your new position

I have a bachelors in Chemistry and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry. I spent more than 20 years teaching in chemistry departments at two different small, liberal arts colleges. My research focused on pedagogy and assessing student learning, and I worked with an educational startup for two decades developing curriculum and running faculty development. During my last sabbatical, I decided to start taking some MBA classes. I found I really enjoyed the learning and challenge. As I started looking for my next role, I was fortunate enough to run across the ad to join MIN-Corps as a recruiter. After a year, I am assuming the role of Director of MIN-Corps which has broader responsibilities across campus than my previous role.


What most excites you about the new position?

What excites me the most about this position is the ability to dream about new possibilities. I don’t have to build the program because Carla Pavone, my predecessor, did such a fantastic job of establishing it, and the regional Hub provides so much support for the foundational activities. I can start digging into the next level of what type of support our teams need.


What is your favorite part about the I-Corps program?

I like that we help very early-stage teams and use a coaching method instead of consulting. I never received any training in business as a science student which is one reason I ended up taking MBA classes. I was curious. This program is a great help to many scientists. Those who do not end up launching a startup still get valuable training.


What have you learned while working at MIN-Corps and with the Great Lakes I-Corps Hub?

A lot!! I have spent my whole career in academia, so the environment is very comfortable for me, but I am newer to the entrepreneurial space. One of the most interesting things I have noticed is that science and business students take very different approaches to entrepreneurship. Probably truly grasping the importance of customer interviews and how to use those to develop a strategy has been my biggest lesson from my first year.


What do you envision for the future of MIN-Corps and the Great Lakes Hub?

What I see for both programs is more integration into various programs across campus. This can be a possible recruiting tool for graduate students. Many of our offerings will also be built into more and more grants as both the federal and state levels want to see more focus on innovation.


Why do innovation and entrepreneurship education matter?

When I taught science, I emphasized to students that my focus was to use my disciplinary content to teach them valuable skills (like communication, leadership, and assessment) and ways of thinking (problem-solving, critical thinking). These will help students long after they have forgotten the content. I-Corps is valuable for the same reasons. Students learn a way of thinking and approaching problems in addition to gaining valuable communication skills.