Rhonda Schuldt chosen as next director of the Big Idea Center

Rhonda Schuldt, who has served as an entrepreneur in residence at Pitt’s Big Idea Center for the past year, has been selected to lead the center, after the retirement of founding director Babs Carryer.

Established in 2018 as part of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Big Idea Center is an on-campus, inclusive innovation catalyst that develops the innovative and entrepreneurial skills of the Pitt student community.

“The growth of student innovation and entrepreneurship at Pitt over the past seven years has been remarkable,” Schuldt said. “The focus now is how to take the foundation that has been created and build on it to support the pockets of student innovation occurring across campus and drive awareness of and access to the Big Idea Center’s offerings for students who are interested in making an impact on their lives and on the world through innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Schuldt previously led an incubator for family and children service organizations to meet unmet community needs, directed public-private regional economic revitalization initiatives to strengthen Southwestern Pennsylvania’s economy, founded several businesses, and had executive leadership positions in technology startups.

For two decades she’s brought her problem-solving experience to early stage and evolving organizations across multiple industries and sectors through her firm, The Synergos Group LLC. She also served as innovation Coordinator at The Corner LaunchBox, a Penn State University Innovation Hub.

“Rhonda has demonstrated during her time with us as an entrepreneur in residence the ability to connect with students and direct them to the resources available through the University’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, and we are confident in her ability to continue raising the bar for the Big Idea Center’s success without missing a beat,” said Evan Facher, vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and director of the Innovation Institute.

Facher also had praise for Carryer. “The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and a legion of Pitt student innovators who have benefited from her tireless mentorship and advocacy, are grateful for all she has done to bring the Big Idea Center to life. We wish her the best as she literally sails off into retirement with her husband Tim on their sailboat.”

Carryer took over management of the Randall Family Big Idea Competition in 2013. The campus-wide innovation competition, funded by Pitt trustee Bob Randall and his family, expanded significantly under her guidance, often with more than 100 student innovator teams entering each year.

Schuldt is quick to emphasize that the Big Idea Center is not intendedly only for students who want to create the next “unicorn” startup, but rather as a place to learn the nuts and bolts of the innovation process, which is applicable to careers at startups or Fortune 500 companies, and from nonprofits and volunteer opportunities to other personal endeavors.

“College is a time to stretch yourself beyond what you think your limits are. The innovation and entrepreneurship experiences you can have at the Big Idea Center will help you build skills you can apply to all facets of your life,” Schuldt said.

Learn more at BigIdea.pitt.edu.