Business Incubator O'Pake Institute Fulton Bank

The O'Pake Institute Fellows and staff working in the SPARK Business Incubator. 

Partnership with Alvernia’s O’Pake Institute funds business incubator and student mentoring

Alvernia University and Fulton Bank expand their longstanding relationship to boost entrepreneurship and stimulate the redevelopment of downtown Reading through the Reading CollegeTowne initiative. The expanded partnership includes Fulton becoming a sponsor of the University’s O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship in addition to supporting experiential learning and mentorship opportunities for Alvernia students through the student Fellows Program and business owners serviced by the SPARK business incubator


“This deep-rooted partnership with Fulton Bank reinforces two of the most fundamental pieces of Alvernia’s mission: students and the community,” said Alvernia University President-Elect, Dr. Glynis A. Fitzgerald. “Fulton Bank’s support of our Reading CollegeTowne initiative as a founding sponsor facilitates increased activity between our students and community mentors. We look forward to both the student and business successes that come from this natural extension of Fulton Bank’s ongoing support of Alvernia’s Franciscan mission to serve the underserved in our communities."


Fulton Bank has pledged a total of $300,000 over the course of five years to provide financial support and mentors for the O’Pake Institute. This enables Alvernia to provide additional undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to work with existing and start-up businesses and gain critical real-world experience. Fulton Bank mentors will work directly with students and clients in the Institute’s business incubator. Fulton Bank is also a sponsor of the transformational Reading Collegiate Scholars program, which provides high school students across Berks County with tutoring, advocacy, guidance and other education support for high school students to prepare them for college. 


“Two of the key focus areas of our Fulton Forward initiative are workforce development and economic empowerment,” said Executive Vice President and Director of Commercial Sales for Fulton Bank, Jeffrey R. Rush. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with Alvernia University and the O’Pake Institute to advance this mission. Together, we are working to support both entrepreneurs and students who are building the future of our local economy and community.”


The O’Pake Fellows Program provides elite undergraduate and graduate students with hands-on distinctive experiential learning opportunities. Students of high academic standing, from diverse majors and backgrounds, work directly with regional entrepreneurs, small business owners, faculty researchers and industry leaders. The program encourages Fellows to engage in applied research activity, scholarly travel, and other personal and professional training activities to enhance their experience. 


“Fulton Bank’s generosity allows us to open up the Fellows Program to more students which enables the O’Pake Institute to work with more businesses, providing greater economic development opportunities for the Greater Reading community,” said Alvernia University Vice President of Research, Economic Development & Innovation and COO of the O’Pake Institute, Dr. Rodney S. Ridley Sr. “I’d like to thank Jeff Rush & Fulton Bank for their support and dedication to our students and the SPARK business incubator as a founding sponsor.”


Alvernia's O’Pake Insitute also partners with other financial institutions, foundations and private donors, including the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, Kutztown SBDC, Visions Federal Credit Union, Riverfront Federal Credit Union, Barrio Alegria, Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Berks and Alvernia University’s (AU) O’Pake Institute, where AU funding is courtesy of The PA 30-Day Fund, Schlouch Inc., and Allan Myers, Inc. through the Financial Lending & Innovation Collaborative (FLIC). These partnerships aid in providing capital and knowledge to early-stage entrepreneurs in a unique delivery that includes new academic offerings for Alvernia students, as well as financing, investment and mentoring for rising entrepreneurs.