Q&A with greg smogard, phd
Assistant Vice President, Innovation and Business Development
With the appointment of Greg Smogard, PhD, as assistant vice president of innovation and business development, USF Sarasota-Manatee added a proven corporate and higher education leader to establish and build mutually beneficially partnerships between businesses and the university.
Smogard’s professional experience is steeped in marrying innovation with resources, which includes executive positions with Fortune 500 companies and working with global brands in more than 40 countries. Most recently, he served as director of the Innovators for the Americas program with the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) at the University of Miami. In addition, he is an author, international consultant, world traveler and consistent supporter of and investor in a wide-range of startups.
His current role includes:
- Developing and expanding comprehensive and sustainable relationships between the university and the local business community.
- Maximizing and customizing the current USF innovation ecosystem to meet the rapidly growing and changing needs of local academic and business communities.
- Working with university senior leadership on key strategic initiatives.
- Seeking new opportunities to form research partnerships with businesses and community stakeholders.
Q: What excites you about your role?
A: I have always been excited about opportunities to expand an entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem, especially when it involves collaboration between entrepreneurs/innovators, the private sector and higher education. For decades, I have recognized the tremendous opportunities that exist in this dynamic and fast-growing community, which stretches from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge through Sarasota and Manatee counties including Lakewood Ranch and south through North Port and Venice. After relocating here from Miami, I looked for such an opportunity. Through my network, I was introduced to Dr. Karen Holbrook, our regional chancellor at USFSM. I was impressed with her background at Ohio State and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, her strategic vision and her outstanding leadership. She was clear about her commitment to student success, community engagement, research and workforce development. Over the last few months, I have worked with staff, faculty and some students and have been impressed with their professionalism, dedication and expertise, which makes my job even more exciting.
Q: Describe the USF innovation ecosystem. How can it grow?
A: Through the USF consolidation process, we will have access to a comprehensive and robust entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem we can leverage to assist our campus along with our Cross College Alliance and community partners. By expanding our cutting-edge research, tech commercialization/transfer process, start-up incubation and funding capabilities, we can make a quantum leap forward.
Q: What trends have you noticed in the Sarasota-Manatee region, and how can USFSM provide partnership and support?
A: Not just in Sarasota-Manatee, but nationally and internationally, the world of work is constantly changing, and I believe those changes are accelerating. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, data analytics, the Internet of Things and myriad innovations in the STEM sector, among others, are impacting many different industries and changing workforce requirements. Job descriptions and skill sets are more multi-disciplinary and require more critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and the ability to “connect the dots.” Part of my role is to ensure USFSM continues to be an important, innovative and effective community partner. That means we have to listen closely to the needs of our community partners so we can stay ahead of the curve and prepare students for both their current and future careers.
Q: What new opportunities and partnerships have developed?
A: As we expand and develop relationships throughout the community, the opportunities are endless. I would like to highlight two partnerships with long-term, important supporters of USFSM. The first is with FCCI Insurance Group, whose name appears on our main rotunda. We are working with them to expand our Risk Management and Insurance Program, which includes adding a tenure-track professor, regional advisory council and potentially an RMI center. The second is with David Kotok and Cumberland Advisors, who initially sponsored our Bloomberg Lab. We are working to expand programs to leverage this incredible technology, including the first Bloomberg Certified Talent Recruitment Luncheon to introduce students to regional recruiters. We have been working with David and his team to develop additional initiatives, including recent conferences on Adapting to Climate Change and Financial Literacy Day III: Financial Markets and the Economy.
Q: Is USFSM’s size an advantage in forming partnerships?
A: Absolutely. Since my background includes working in both large multinational corporations and entrepreneurial ventures, I recognize the importance of speed, agility, relevance and the ability to add significant value, creativity and innovation to a partnership. The reality is, if we don’t respond accordingly, the business community will not wait and will find partners elsewhere. Our smaller size and the dedication of our faculty, staff and students allows us to move quickly and be very responsive to this dynamic and fast-growing community. With consolidation, we will have the synergy and the access to the resource base of a preeminent university in the state of Florida. That is exciting!
Q: What are some of the obstacles?
A: We have three areas that will enable us to continue to meet the expanding needs of our business community. First, we need more critical resources to grow our enrollment. Our business partners constantly tell us they want more of our interns and graduates. Also, our business community has told us they want employees who were educated here so they will stay here. Therefore, we need to scale our educational model to meet current demand. Second, we need student housing, which supports our ability to recruit and grow our enrollment. Third, we need to build our Integrated Science and Technology Complex (ISTC). Much of the world of work is quickly becoming dependent on STEM skills. ISTC will not only help prepare students, faculty, staff and community with the resources, research, recruitment and physical environment for the future, it will become a significant “engine of growth” that can be a major boost to our regional economy.