Welcome to entrepreneurship at UConn.
The Werth Institute 2.0 is leading the next iteration of Entrepreneurship at UConn together with its members and leadership across the university. From its founding, Peter J. Werth has instilled a core belief that entrepreneurship happens in every discipline and every area of human experience. We are here to foster that inclusion.
When we started down this journey in 2017, I knew of the great potential that UConn students, faculty, and alumni possessed to create something truly unique and valuable. Over the last 3 years, we have grown from a kernel of an idea to becoming a central part of UConn’s strategic growth over the next 5-10 years. Like a startup, we have tested numerous different ways to find a fit in the marketplace of student activities and offerings.
Today, we begin the journey to truly scale up this operation with the end goal of making entrepreneurial education, opportunities, and experiences part of every students experience at UConn. Ultimately, we will measure the Werth Institute based upon how we attract investment and grow the greater ecosystem of courses, programs, and job opportunities. The Werth Institute has always been centered in creating authentic relationships between people: students, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, technologist, alumni, etc. These relationships are essential to who we are today, and who we want to become in the future. The web of programs, departments, schools, students, and alumni create something bigger than any of us on our own.
At this juncture, you may wonder how can you help:
- We will be the best university in the world in developing equal access to entrepreneurial opportunities for students. This will be evidenced through concerted and continual effort to innovate around the inclusion of underrepresented populations in The Werth Institute. If you look at entrepreneurial programs at UConn or any university and do not see yourself represented, come talk with me!
- Huskies Forever! The Werth will be the hub for the interconnectivity needed to grow faster. We need the engagement of so many different people in mentorship, networking, student recruitment, startup investment, and ways we haven’t even thought of yet. You do not even need to know how you fit in, but we will figure it out together. It all starts with an email.
- We will lead in developing ways to support outstanding students. Sometimes that means forging programs out of nothing, other times it means providing financial scholarships or support, and other times it means my team grabbing a hammer and helping to build a small manufacturing facility with a student. This can not happen without philanthropic support and corporate investment in the growth of this environment. Donate now here or set up a time to speak with us about your interest in giving here.
The Werth Institute is the legacy of Peter J. Werth Jr. and his investment is changing the lives of hundreds of students. I hope that this inspires a sense of pride and gratitude in you, as you engage with entrepreneurship at UConn.
Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
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 Associate 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.
Director of Leadership Development
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.
Director of Mentorship & Student Development
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.
Director of the Center for Neurodiversity and Employment Innovation
Judy Reilly joined the Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Connecticut in May 2021. Judy was charged with developing a Center for Neurodiversity and Employment Innovation in order to address the significant problem of under/unemployment for neurodivergent adults. Individuals with differences in brain function and behavioral traits who are often blocked from employment opportunities and success have skills and talent to offer employers. In creating the center, Judy is driving UCONN’s mission to be a national leader in creating the knowledge, programs, and resources that will decrease these barriers to securing meaningful employment. As director, she leads based on her unique combination of knowledge of autism, ADHD, dyslexia and other neurodivergent conditions and her business education and training.
Judy is a graduate of the University of Michigan (B.A. and M.B.A.). She holds a certificate in Special Education Advocacy from William & Mary Law School.
Passionate about the student experience, mentorship, and sustainability, Aaron looks to blend the experiences he had as an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Connecticut into the work he does for the Werth Institute. As the Werth Institute’s Operations Manager, he oversees signature programs such as HackUConn and the Experience Innovation Expo, coordinates meetings and communications for the Werth Institute Members, and publishes the Institute’s results with the Princeton Review. Beyond this, Aaron seeks to build connections with and mentor students who are interested in sustainability, natural resources, or just looking to navigate UConn. He’d be the first to tell you that most routes in life are “unconventional” but that does not make them any less meaningful than the already blazed trail!
Aaron graduated from UConn with a B.S. in Natural Resources (Sustainable Forest Resources) and an MBA focused on Marketing and Management. Beyond work, Aaron is an avid fan of riding his bicycle, tending to his menagerie of house plants, or cooking up a storm in the kitchen inspired by the styles of Nick Stellino, Roy Yamaguchi, or Steven Raichlen.
Head of Entrepreneurial Transformation
Tara Watrous is an educator, innovator, entrepreneur, and ed tech expert. She is the Head of Entrepreneurial Transformation with the Werth Institute. In this role, she is charged with leveraging entrepreneurial education as a platform to better prepare students for the future of work. Her belief is that an entrepreneurial skillset should be made accessible to all students to produce graduates who have the competencies for and the access to a diverse array of opportunities and career paths.
This past academic year, Tara launched the Stamford Startup Studio. The Stamford Startup Studio (S3) employs UConn students full-time to create technology products for local industries. S3 provides a cooperative educational experience where students spend a year outside of the classroom gaining hands-on experience networking and collaborating with consultants, corporate partners, venture capitalists, and senior business leaders to ensure they’re bringing relevant and innovative solutions to market. Additionally, Tara works with donors, employers, and campus partners to develop relevant interdisciplinary programs connecting entrepreneurship education and activities to a dynamic workforce formalization. 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 several start-up and non-profit organizations to build capacity and launch innovative projects. Tara holds a B.A. in Psychological Sciences from the University of Connecticut and a M.S. Ed in Education Entrepreneurship from the University of Pennsylvania.