Institute shifts focus to economic development and entrepreneurship
Alvernia University appoints Dr. Rodney Ridley to associate provost and vice president and chief operating officer for the newly re-engineered O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship. Ridley’s appointment is part of the university’s continuation to align its senior leadership team to support a new strategic direction.
“Dr. Ridley has an extensive background in developing entrepreneurial programs and stimulating economic growth in both the private sector and higher education,” said Alvernia President John R. Loyack. “His ability to develop student-centered business incubators along with a background in engineering will not only greatly enhance the strategic growth of Alvernia University, but also breathe new life into the economic redevelopment of downtown Reading,” he added.
Ridley will be responsible for developing a student-centered business incubator within the O'Pake Institute and leading efforts to explore new academic programs to be housed in downtown Reading for Alvernia students.
“This is not a job for me but a mission,” said Ridley. “We have a unique opportunity to be a catalyst for some serious change economically and otherwise. It’s already happening. Joining Alvernia and partnering with Reading, businesses and other organizations to have a positive effect on students and the community is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The expanded scope of the renamed O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship supports Alvernia’s Reading CollegeTowne strategy for redevelopment in downtown and strengthens experiential learning opportunities for students.
“The O’Pake Institute’s new direction offers more possibilities for students and faculty,” said Alvernia Provost and Senior Vice President Glynis Fitzgerald. “We are now better positioned to look at new programs, reimagine other kinds of learning opportunities such as the business incubator, and offer exciting experiences for our students,” she added.
One of the cornerstones of the O’Pake Institute will be the student-centered business incubator, through which Alvernia will collaborate with the Berks Alliance, Berks County Community Foundation, Greater Reading Chamber Alliance and the City of Reading.
“Berks County's economy is built largely on businesses that were started locally and have grown,” said Berks County Community Foundation President Kevin Murphy. “Reading is a great environment for business, and we're excited to work with Alvernia University and the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance to create an even better system of support for entrepreneurs.”
“Alvernia University is identifying itself as a catalyst and a leader in Greater Reading in supporting our entrepreneurial ecosystem," said Greater Reading Chamber Alliance Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Pamela J. Shupp. “The GRCA is pleased to welcome this key academic partner in the positive transformation of business services and support.”
As the appointed leader of O’Pake, Ridley has more than 28 years of higher education experience and has held myriad positions from research assistant and engineering professor to his current role as executive director of The Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Wilkes University. He also has served in numerous private sector engineering capacities, earned numerous awards, including the 2017 Pennsylvania Acceleration Educator of the Year and holds 27 U.S. patents.
Ridley earned a doctorate in engineering science and mechanics and a master's degree in electrical engineering from Penn State University as well as a bachelor's degree in physics from Lincoln University.
Alvernia announced in July 2019 the realignment of its senior leadership team to support a new strategic direction, called the Alvernia Advantage, designed to support a special brand of experiential transformation of the individual and community. Ridley moves into a position previously held by Dr. Rudy Ruth, who recently became the executive director of Alvernia’s Holleran Center for Community and Global Engagement. Ridley begins his new appointment in January 2020.
Alvernia’s O’Pake Institute has fostered and promoted ethical leadership and public service in the Berks County community since its establishment in 2007. The new direction of the institute provides more opportunities for students and positions Alvernia to continue its Franciscan mission of being a source of transformation for students and the communities it serves.
Alvernia University is a thriving comprehensive university that empowers students to become ethical leaders with moral courage, while providing an intellectually challenging environment with real-world learning experiences. Operating on a scenic 191-acre suburban campus in historic Berks County, Pennsylvania, the distinctive Franciscan university of nearly 3,000 students is conveniently located near Philadelphia (60 miles) and within an easy drive of New York, Baltimore and Washington, DC.