Staff Bios

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Neil Kane LinkedIn Icon
Director, Undergraduate Entrepreneurship

Neil Kane, the quintessential serial entrepreneur, is a leading authority on technology commercialization, entrepreneurship and innovation. He is the former co-Executive Director of the Illinois Technology Enterprise Center at Argonne National Laboratory and was Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Illinois and Northern Illinois University. He has been the CEO of startup companies in areas as diverse as consumer packaged goods, toys, nanotechnology, Internet marketplaces, medical diagnostics and energy storage.

He holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois and an MBA from The University of Chicago. He attended graduate school at the Australian Graduate School of Management and studied in Japan on a scholarship from JETRO. Named a 2007 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum, he twice attended their annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. He has been recognized for Outstanding Entrepreneurship by the National Science Foundation and twice was an invited witness on technology transfer for the U.S. House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Research & Science Education. He was also a mentor in the very first cohort of NSF’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program taught by Steve Blank at Stanford University.

Desireé Melfi LinkedIn Icon
Communications Manager, Undergraduate Entrepreneurship

Desireé serves as the Communications Manager for Undergraduate Entrepreneurship and Innovation, overseeing the overarching strategy and execution of the program’s communications, including social, digital and print media. An impassioned student advocate, Desireé promotes undergraduate student academic achievements and career successes. Her marketing, sales, digital design and photography skills have been honed by her work in higher education as well as the sports and entertainment industries. A proud Spartan to the core, Desireé earned both her degrees from Michigan State: A Bachelor of Fine Art in Graphic Design and Photography, in 2006, and, most recently, her Master of Arts in Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education. Before joining the Undergraduate Entrepreneurship and Innovation team, she provided student mentorship services, coordinated undergraduate student outreach and engagement and oversaw the MSU Neighborhoods social media strategy.

Leigh Anne Jewison LinkedIn Icon
Executive Assistant, Undergraduate Entrepreneurship

Leigh Anne earned her Bachelor of Art in Social Science with an emphasis in International Studies from Michigan State University. 

As the Administrative Assistant for Undergraduate Entrepreneurship, Leigh Anne oversees all administrative functions, keeping the department running smoothly every day.  Leigh Anne is committed to helping everyone have a successful and organized day. Leigh Anne is also pursuing a career in floral design.  A long time interest is now looking to be a future side business for Leigh Anne.

Before joining the Entrepreneurship team, Leigh Anne worked as a project manager for the Michigan Health & Hospital Association for 15 years.  While in the Education department, she was an integral team member for the association’s annual convention and committee chair for implementing sustainability in the workplace.  While chairing this committee, she pursued and completed a Sustainable Business Professional Certificate from the Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College, Grand Rapids.

Lori Fischer LinkedIn Icon
Events & Student Program Manager, Spartan Innovations

Lori earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from St. Cloud University in St. Cloud, MN. Her background includes the graphic design field as well as experience in office management, accounting, human resources, marketing, management and startup opportunities. Lori assisted in establishing the new Spartan Innovations office in 2012 and now works with the MSU student Hatch program and the Fellows program. Lori also coordinates and manages numerous entrepreneurial events in collaboration with MSU, students, local community initiatives and the State of Michigan.

Paul Jaques LinkedIn Icon
Director of Student & Community Engagement

Paul earned his Bachelor of Science in Advertising/Public Relations from Grand Valley State University and followed up with a Masters in Public Relations from Michigan State University. He has worked in the career placement field for 12 years and has gained a great deal of experience through his work with CareerQuest, OnLine Employment Services, and most notably Michigan State University. As the Director of Student and Community Engagement for Spartan Innovations, Paul Jaques works with the MSU undergraduate students on their business ideas and inventions to potentially get them to market. This effort is combined with funding from two endowments, Forest Akers and Gerstacker, which are available to the undergraduate students. He also works with the State of Michigan on Greenlight Michigan events all throughout the state.

Amber Shinn LinkedIn Icon
Marketing Director, MSU Innovation Center

A graduate of Michigan State University, Shinn manages public relations and marketing strategy and execution for MSU’s Innovation Center (MSU Technologies, Business Connect and Spartan Innovations.) She keeps both the periodic table of elements and her AP Style Guide close at hand. Shinn is a professional advisor for MSU Women in Entrepreneurship and a mentor for the Conquer Accelerator.

Before joining the MSU Innovation Center, Shinn was CEO and creative director of Shinn Marketing, LLC, and deputy campaign director of Cure Michigan.

Shinn serves on the board of Impression 5 Science Center, the Capital City Film Festival, the Michigan Technology Network, and was named one of the Lansing Chamber of Commerce “10 Over the Next Ten” young professionals in 2012.

Ken Szymusiak LinkedIn Icon
Managing Director, Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Broad College of Business

Ken Szymusiak is Managing Director of the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (BIEI) at the Broad College of Business at Michigan State University.  The BIEI is charged with developing and supporting entrepreneurship within the business college, as well as throughout the university student body of Michigan State University, through the development of curriculum, events, and entrepreneurial support structures. Additionally, Ken teaches coursework focused on entrepreneurial mindset, small business creation and management, and business model development. Ken also serves as Director of the Hive, an innovative student “idea laboratory” where he mentors students in moving business concepts from idea to market. He also serves as faculty advisor for the following student organizations: MSU Entrepreneurship Association and MSU Design for America.

Christopher Sell LinkedIn Icon
Director of Alumni and Entrepreneur Engagement

Chris is a business developer, alumni relations officer, project manager, and career educator. At his core, he’s passionate about creating community and connecting people to opportunity. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University (BA, 2007) and completed his Master’s degree (MA) in Higher Education Administration at Michigan State University in 2010. In his current role at MSU, Chris serves as the Director of Alumni and Entrepreneur Engagement, with a dual appointment to the MSU Innovation Center and the MSU Alumni Association. In this position, he leads alumni outreach efforts to build advocacy and support for the entrepreneurship ecosystem and student entrepreneurs at the University.

Aaryn Richard LinkedIn Icon
Communications Manager, MSU Foundation

Aaryn serves as the Communications Manager for the Michigan State University Foundation and its subsidiaries. A committed storyteller, he connects community stakeholders with vibrant content, focusing the spotlight on the hard work of MSU’s faculty, researchers, and student entrepreneurs. Although a strict adherent to the Chicago Manual of Style, he’s still permitted to talk to the press and serve as a mentor for the Conquer Accelerator.

A Michigan native, Aaryn earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and Literature from Central Michigan University. Discovering that Mount Pleasant is a misnomer, Aaryn moved to Colorado to hike actual mountains. He earned his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Colorado State University.

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