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RC CLEI Promotes More Than Entrepreneurship


Written by Bradley Bommarito

Last Tuesday, the Roanoke College Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurial Innovation launched its Fall 2019 speaker series. Dr. Hal Irvin, the Associate Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology Outreach at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at Virginia Tech, and Dr. Sarah Snider, a postdoctoral researcher at the center and entrepreneur, spoke to a group of students and faculty in West Hall about some ongoing projects at the center as well as opportunities for local students to get involved. 

“The CLEI speaker series is a monthly opportunity for interested students – regardless of discipline – to come and hear directly from people involved in entrepreneurship, community leadership, and business innovation,” said Mr. Steve Baker, CLEI director and business professor.

Irvin started off the lunch by discussing his unique role as an ambassador between the business world and the academic community. He explained his affiliation with RAMP, a partnership between Virginia Western Community College, Roanoke City, and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. Snider finished out the second half of the lunch, detailing her role as both a graduate student and start-up CEO. She presented about a newly developed diagnostic app for the detection and treatment of alcohol use disorder.

“Students who wish to become directly involved in these opportunities should get involved in research at the undergrad level,” said Irvin.

According to their website, the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC makes transformative scientific advances that address the fundamental processes of human and animal health and disease. The institute trains the next generation of leading biomedical scientists while also facilitating discovery-based medical education. By sustaining and continuing to strengthen the Virginia Tech/ Carilion strategic partnership, the institute aims to develop one of the nation’s premier biomedical research environments in Roanoke, Virginia.

“Drs. Irvin and Snider were able to describe and explain complicated processes, such as funding a biotechnology startup, in a manner that was aspiring and encouraging to students. We also learned that BEAM Diagnostics currently has an opening for a research assistant, an appropriate entry for an interested RC student.  I think our two guests represent the product of hard work and commitment to one’s craft,” said Baker.

Snider is the CEO of the start-up company Beam Diagnostics, located in Roanoke, Va. According to their website, Beam Diagnostics aims to integrate cutting-edge research in behavioral economics with advanced technology to improve the lives of numerous individuals suffering from alcohol and other substance use problems. 

Future speakers in the CLEI lunch program include health care administrators, government officials, and business leaders. Mr. Baker urges students to engage with some of the upcoming CLEI programming.

“On Oct. 22, we will partner with Pi Lambda Phi fraternity to welcome Mrs. Nancy Agee, the CEO of Carilion, to the annual CLEI/PLP Speaker Series presentation at 7:30 p.m.  We hope everyone comes out to hear this local legend talk about her experiences transitioning from being a nurse to head of one of the state’s largest healthcare systems. On Nov. 16, all students are invited to compete and win money at the 2nd Annual Salem Civic Challenge. This unique event asks teams of students to solve a real-life problem proffered by the City of Salem, and the winning groups will win some cash. Otherwise stay tuned to the RC events calendars, your emails, and campus bulletin boards for more information about CLEI events this year,” said Baker.