Leadership and Staff
David was appointed the inaugural Director of the Werth Institute in January 2018, and previously he served as the co-director of the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Consortium and the Xcite: Women in Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship Conference. As a faculty member in the School of Business, he teaches courses on technology innovation and entrepreneurship. David is an active mentor at UConn, and has recently founded Zatoichi Co., a blockchain based startup.
Prior to UConn, David was a securities and corporate finance attorney, with experience representing startups from formation through the IPO process. He has extensive non-profit board experience. He holds a Ph.D. in Management from the University of Alabama, a J.D. from the University of Miami, an M.B.A. from Elon University, and a B.S. in Political Science from Northeastern University.
Kathy F. Rocha
Kathy F. Rocha is Assistant Director of the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Connecticut. She also leads the Evaluation Board for the UConn Innovation Fund which invests in startups with ties to UConn. Kathy is very involved with mentoring students and judging startup and business plan competitions at UConn, Connecticut and the greater Boston area.
Kathy is a founding member of Pulpit Rock Investors, board member of Day Kimball Hospital and trustee of the KeepSmilin4Abbie Foundation. Previously Rocha was an executive in the computer networking industry at Cisco Systems, 3Com and Bytex Corp. Kathy holds a B.A. in Political Science and MBA degrees from Providence College in Providence, RI.
Katie Britt is the Leadership Programs Coordinator for The Werth Institute and has been with The Werth Institute since July 2018. She assists with the coordination and support of the NetWerx student/alum mentor program, the Werth Innovators program and activities and other operational tasks.
Previously, Katie worked as a Regional Program Assistant for the Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments supporting government funded regional town programs. She earned a B.A. from the University of Connecticut in 2008 with a major in Sociology. Katie’s interests include supporting students, learning new skills and team collaboration. Outside of work Katie enjoys spending time with her family and dogs, gardening and floral design.
Dave is the Werth Institute’s Venture Builder helping student founders found, accelerate and commercialize their first businesses. In addition to working with UConn, Dave is a Venture Builder working with startup founders building new businesses cross-vertical, including NVISO, KEYNO, RIKOR, SIGO SEGUROS.
Previously, he was the Head of Innovation at UBS Wealth Management globally, responsible for developing multiple products in the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, Switzerland and putting UBS on the map as an industry thought leader. He built the digital & innovation unit for the Swiss Stock Exchange including being head startup coach at its F10 Accelerator with cohorts of 15 startups every six months.
Emma Costa is a University Specialist for the Werth Institute. Previously, Emma worked for Eastern Connecticut State University’s Women’s Center as a program coordinator and administrative assistant. She graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2019 with a degree in Women’s Studies and Anthropology. In her free time she enjoys roller skating, traveling, and painting with her cat, Milo.
As Director of Mentorship & Student Development, Julie is committed to cultivating meaningful relationships between students and alumni with a focus on soft skill building, networking and the entrepreneurial mindset. She also teaches COMM1100 Principles of Public Speaking at Avery Point. In her international portfolio, Julie has been a leader at the European Mentoring Summit, European Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring and was selected by the Eurasia Foundation to be a Social Expertise Fellow to Russia.
Prior to joining UConn, Julie was the Director of Mentoring and Community Engagement at an independent, tuition-free school for girls from families with limited means in Boston, Massachusetts. She also taught communication courses at Emerson College, University of Massachusetts and Curry College. Julie holds a M.A. in Integrated Marketing Communication from Emerson College and a B.S. in Communication Studies and Public Relations from Towson University.
Tara is the Student Development & Digital Credentialing Specialist for the Werth Institute. In this role, Tara develops and coordinates interdisciplinary programs to up-skill students and pipeline them into research opportunities, company projects, start-up teams, and accelerator programs.
Previously, Tara worked with an emerging technology initiative in the School of Business that offers students opportunities and resources to learn, explore, and develop emerging technology, design and data analytic skill sets. Additionally, Tara has worked with a number of start-up non-profit organizations to build capacity and launch innovative projects. Tara holds a B.A. in Psychological Sciences from the University of Connecticut. Currently, Tara is an executive graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania earning an executive master's degree in Education Entrepreneurship.
John A. Elliott is currently the Dean of the UConn School of Business as well as AuranJ. Fox Chair in Business. He was most recently the Dean at the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, which is part of the City University of New York (CUNY), Vice President of Baruch College, and the Irwin and Arlene Ettinger Professor of Accountancy. Dean Elliott received his BS and MBA. degrees from the University of Maryland and his Ph.D. degree from Cornell University. Prior to accepting the Deanship at the Zicklin School, he spent 20 years on the faculty at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, most recently as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
Dr. Kazem Kazerounian currently serves as Dean and a professor of Mechanical Engineering in the School of Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He has been responsible for leading strategic initiatives focused on expanding the School’s research enterprise, institutional advancement, educational innovation, and technology commercialization. At the national level, he has been the Chair of ASME Design Division Executive Committee and has led several major national and international conferences and technical committees. He has served on the editorial boards of the ASME Applied Mechanics Review and ASME Journal of Medical Devices and has been Associate Editor of both the ASME Journal of Mechanical Design and the Journal of Mechanisms and Machine Theory. In addition, he is a Fellow of ASME and the recipient of the ASME Design Division Mechanisms and Robotics Award (a lifetime achievement award) in recognition of cumulative contributions to the field of mechanisms design and theory (2006), the George Wood Award in recognition of significant contributions to the field of mechanisms and robotics (1997), and the ABB Outstanding Faculty Award (1997). He was inducted into the Connecticut Academy of Science & Engineering (CASE) in 2008.
Lawrence K. Silbart, MPH, Ph.D. received his doctoral degree in toxicology from the University of Michigan and joined the Department of Animal Science at UCONN as an Assistant Professor in 1991. He has served as Department Head of the Department of Allied Health Sciences since 2006, and maintains an active research interest aimed at developing mucosal vaccines and adjuvants. Dr. Silbart has authored or co-authored over 50 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, many in prestigious scientific journals, has held grants from federal agencies including the NIH and USDA, and has served on four federal grant review study panels. He served as Division G Chair of the American Society of Microbiology (2012), has overseen five post-doctoral fellows and has served as major advisor to twelve doctoral students including two in progress. Dr. Silbart is joint appointed in three departments, has served as a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University for over a decade, and held an adjunct appointment at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine for many years. He has received two teaching awards and has taught courses in Environmental Health and Vaccine research. He maintains an active research program aimed at developing mucosal vaccines and adjuvants for infectious agents and toxins. He joined the Provost’s office in the fall of 2013 as the Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives. In this role he has many responsibilities related to the roll-out of NextGenCT and the UConn Tech Park.