Popes Make it Permanent

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A little over a year ago, Dee and James G. “Jim” Pope, EE 1965, made an expendable gift that launched a pilot project: The CREATE-X James G. Pope Faculty Fellows initiative. The Popes planned an initial three-year commitment to fund early-career faculty who would teach and mentor Georgia Tech’s CREATE-X participants. They’ve decided to convert that initial gift into five endowed fellowship positions.

“We think the work is very important,” Jim Pope said. “The reason we didn’t endow it last year was that it seemed experimental to us.” There were four initial fellowships, which were open to applicants across the Institute. Twenty-two people applied for those four positions. “All the candidates were great,” he said. Even considering the constraints and limited collaborations made necessary by the pandemic, Pope “became convinced we were on the right track, so I said, ‘Okay. Let’s make it permanent.’”

The CREATE-X program is designed to inspire and cultivate entrepreneurship. Participants learn about startup concepts, terminology, and methodology. With the help of instructors and mentors, they create prototypes and intellectual property, eventually launching startups as part of their capstone semester.

“CREATE-X has been one of Georgia Tech’s great success stories since launching in 2013, growing from eight student teams to 80,” said Raheem Beyah, dean of the College of Engineering and Southern Company Chair. “Establishing a faculty fellowship program will help ensure the continued success of our students, while also opening additional pathways across campus for commercialization ideas. I’m incredibly grateful to Jim Pope and his family for their support as we develop the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders.”

The James G. and Dee H. Pope Faculty Fellows Endowment Fund provides for five Jim Pope Fellows per year to serve as instructors, mentors, and advisors to students participating in CREATE-X. In terms of generating startups, “the ultimate goal of CREATE-X is 300 a year,” Pope said. “We have 90 startups heading to demonstration day this year – up from about 75 last year.”

Although CREATE-X has developed a reputation for launching “the latest interesting gadget and taking it to market, it is also about taking ideas forward in ways that benefit the world,” Pope said. Among the four Fellows chosen last year, “Anjali Thomas (associate professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs), is interested in the economics of poverty, and she made the connection between her core interest and how entrepreneurship could be used to alleviate poverty across the world,” he explained. “We are very excited to be able to support that concept.”

Raghupathy Sivakumar, Wayne J. Holman Chair Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Founding Director of CREATE-X, agreed. ““As CREATE-X scales toward its vision of serving 100% of Georgia Tech students, increasing the involvement of our faculty in the program is critical, and this is especially important for disciplines that are not typically associated with entrepreneurship. Jim Pope’s fellowship program will allow us to attract the best of our faculty and train them in entrepreneurial methodologies and curriculum.”