Success Story

Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization makes 3 key appointments

Last year, three appointments were made to the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization at Penn State, expanding expertise within the University’s innovation ecosystem. Lee Erickson has been appointed as the associate director, responsible for economic development and student programs, effective Dec. 1; Ryan Mandell has been appointed as the director of the new Penn State Innovation Hub makerspace, effective Sept. 1; and Ashley Palmer has been appointed the director of marketing and communications, effective Nov. 8.

“With these appointments, the Office of Entrepreneurship & Commercialization will continue to expertly support and amplify the growing success of our innovative entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research. “All three of these individuals have contributed significantly to building, maintaining and improving our processes and systems. It is with great pleasure to welcome them into their new roles.”

Erickson was named to her new position after serving as the Jack White Family Director at Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank, one of 21 LaunchBoxes and innovation hubs embedded within Commonwealth Campus communities across the state providing a wide array of no-cost resources needed by entrepreneurs and innovators. As director of Happy Valley LaunchBox since 2016, Erickson played a key role in building the innovation space and the Network from the ground up.

In her new role as associate director of economic development and student programs, Erickson will have a central coordination role for the LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network. She will be responsible for developing new strategies and programs that increase the economic impact of Invent Penn State’s state-wide network of Innovation Hubs, as well as increasing opportunities for Penn State students to build entrepreneurial skills and mindsets, and to engage in new entrepreneurial opportunities.

“As an experienced entrepreneur, Lee was the perfect person to both develop the entrepreneurship programming and set the culture of innovation that has come to define Happy Valley LaunchBox,” said James Delattre, associate vice president for research and director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization. “She undoubtedly will make a broad impact on the statewide startup community in this new role.”

Prior to her time at Penn State, Erickson co-founded multiple businesses including Erickson Barnett, a full-service marketing agency specializing in B2B technology marketing, and Erickson & Associates, an independent consulting firm that developed computer-based instruction and online help systems for large corporations. She also worked as an instructional designer for GE Information Service.

Erickson received her master’s degree in educational communication and technology from New York University and her Ph.D. from Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology.

Erickson’s team also will include Annie Hughes, director of Harrisburg LaunchBox and director of outreach at Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern PA. Hughes will be serving in a new role as the statewide coordinator for the LaunchBox and Innovation Hub network.

“Annie’s industry experience, as well as her expertise in product innovation, branding, and leadership coaching will be invaluable in helping us to identify and build new programs and services that increase the impact of our statewide innovation network,” Erickson commented.

In his new role, Mandell will be responsible for managing and providing complete oversight of the prototyping and product development labs, including administrative, operational, financial, and programmatic needs. He also will be responsible for developing and overseeing programs that meet the needs of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in partnership with Happy Valley LaunchBox.

The all-new makerspace, located on the first floor and mezzanine of the new Penn State Innovation Hub on South Burrowes Street, encompasses roughly 8,000 square feet and allows users to design, prototype, and test potential solutions for their startups. The facilities give users access to a breadth of materials and methodologies for production, including woodworking, metalworking, digital fabrication, and additive manufacturing.

“Ryan brings a wealth of knowledge in design, product development, sculpture, digital fabrication, and prototyping to the new facility,” said Delattre. “This multifaceted skill set will be extremely helpful as he engages interdisciplinary teams to develop new products, objects, and research tools.”

Mandell comes to Penn State from Indiana University Bloomington, where he served as director of the fabrication labs for the School of Art, Architecture and Design. Prior to directing the fabrication labs, Mandell worked as an assistant professor of sculpture at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and Boise State University. He received his bachelor’s degree in drawing from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and his master’s in sculpture from Indiana University Bloomington.

Palmer was named to her new position after serving as interim director of marketing and communications since June 2021. Previously, she served in this office as the marketing and communications manager for more than two years. Palmer started with Penn State in 2016 as a marketing manager at Penn State Outreach.

As director, Palmer will continue to oversee and manage the strategic direction of Invent Penn State and direct the marketing strategy for 21 programs, offices, and events within the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research in collaboration with leadership and directors.

Prior to Penn State, Palmer served as the community marketing manager for OrderUp and as a sales manager for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. She received her bachelor’s degree in public relations from Penn State.

“Having worked in startups, large corporations, and higher education, Ashley has a range of technical skills and market insights that make her an extremely effective communicator and manager,” Delattre said. “Penn State has made tremendous progress in economic development and entrepreneurship under Dr. Barron’s leadership, and Ashley is ideally suited to amplify those successes.”

About the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization

A strategic unit of the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research, the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization leads Penn State’s entrepreneurship and economic development programs, including management of the University’s startup portfolio, development of programs for Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank and the LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network, and administration of the Invent Penn State initiative and its entrepreneurship and innovation storytelling.