From Left: Lizette Epps, Caitlin Long, Rodney Ridley, Michelle Conway 

ACEEU Triple E Awards recognizes university’s senior leader in Barcelona, Spain  

Alvernia University Vice President of Research, Economic Development & Innovation, Chief Operating Officer of The O’Pake Institute & Dean of the College of STEAM, Dr. Rodney S. Ridley Sr., was awarded third place in the Male Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year in the Americas category at the Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities (ACEEU) Triple E Awards Ceremony on Thursday, June 29 in Barcelona, Spain. This category specifically recognizes outstanding male leaders who have demonstrated exceptional entrepreneurial acumen, leadership, and a profound impact on the Americas' entrepreneurial ecosystem. Similar awards were given to leaders from Europe, Africa, the Asia-Pacific Region.


“This award speaks to Rodney's role in developing distinctive, hands-on experiential learning opportunities for our students, leading the positive impact that the O'Pake Institute has had on economic development within the Reading and Berks County communities,” said Alvernia University President Glynis A. Fitzgerald, Ph.D.. “His diverse and inclusive approach to this process will continue to benefit both our students and the greater southeastern Pennsylvania region.”


Under Ridley’s leadership as COO, Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute has served over 300 small and established businesses in and beyond Berks County since the inception of the SPARK Business Incubator in 2020. To date, 75 students have been trained and completed hands-on experiential learning through the O’Pake Fellows Program, which serves business incubator clients. The Cultural Coalition, a volunteer-based, Berks County-focused, strategic planning and execution group that aids in identifying and attending to the City of Reading’s social and economic issues launched in April 2022. The Financial Lending and Innovation Collaborative (FLIC) was also established in June 2022 and has provided over $60,000 in microgrant funding to 20 local businesses thus far. The Technology Transfer Office has serviced 16 clients since its formal launch in June 2022 and O’Pake’s first patent was secured in Nov. 2022.


“I would like to thank the entire O’Pake Team, the O’Pake Fellows and Graduate Assistants, Alvernia University, our dedicated partners and sponsors and the Berks County community because without them, all of the activity leading up to this award over the last three years would not have been possible,” said Ridley. “I am extremely grateful and honored to have been recognized alongside the four other Male Entrepreneur of the Year finalists out of the hundreds who applied in the Americas, and it makes me that much more eager to see what the O’Pake Institute and Alvernia University continue to accomplish in our ever-expanding entrepreneurial and economic development endeavors.” 


Executive Director of Student & Client Services, Michelle Conway, MBA; Executive Director of Financial Services & Internal Operations, Lizette Epps, MBA, CUDE; and Ph.D. Fellow of Health, Wellness & Innovation, Caitlin Long, PA-C attended the conference alongside Ridley. The team presented "Student-Powered Economic Development-Revitalizing the Poorest City in America," where they shared their innovative strategies and insights on how to ignite change and catalyze economic development through student-powered entrepreneurial services at the conference. Conway and Long nominated Ridley for this prestigious award. 


“Rodney’s entrepreneurial spirit, visionary leadership, and ability to identify the natural gifts and talents in others are his superpowers,” said Conway. “This international achievement truly reflects his exceptional vision, leadership, and ability to identify and nurture the unique talents of others and I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to him for this remarkable achievement. I look forward to continuing to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and drive positive change in higher education together.” 


For more information about ACEEU and the Triple E Awards, click here.