Averett University recently announced that Averett graduate and internationally accomplished entrepreneur and innovator John Vigouroux will join the university in this month as chief entrepreneurship and innovation officer, and will lead a new initiative — the Averett Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Set to launch early in the fall semester, the center will serve as an academic/learning lab and entrepreneurial gateway for students, connecting them with the region’s economic environment while accelerating and supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Southern Virginia. Vigouroux and Averett faculty members will work to create new multidisciplinary learning methods with an intense entrepreneurship focus in classrooms and featuring hands-on work with businesses, organizations and other regional partners.

“With this new Center and John’s leadership, Averett is moving forward during a time where it seems like everything has been halted. It’s during these times that we must resist only looking inwardly, and move boldly and invest in strategic initiatives to support innovations that will shape a better future,” said Averett President Tiffany M. Franks.

“As a highly successful serial entrepreneur, John has had an absolutely remarkable career. He’s an inspirational visionary who has led breakthrough innovations through the startup of companies large and small,” Franks said. “He has a global network of accomplished entrepreneurs and business leaders from whom students, graduates and community partners from across our region will learn and benefit.”

Vigouroux has significant and varied connections to Averett, as an undergraduate business administration graduate, as a soccer alumnus and member of Averett’s Athletic Hall of Fame, and most recently as a former member of Averett’s Board of Trustees.

“Averett inspired me to become who I am today,” said Vigouroux. “I look forward to helping Averett continue its tradition of student-focused success to include the new Averett Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I am excited to pay it forward and help Averett students write their own success stories.”

The center will serve as an on-campus hub for reviewing the latest data examining which skills and knowledge employers most desire, and then shaping their own Averett experiences around those data. It will help Averett realize its goal of 100% of students completing a minimum of two workplace/marketplace experiences prior to graduation, like internships and fieldwork.

“To be able to give every student, regardless of major, the opportunity for problem-based learning inspired by real-world connections is a dream come true,” said Peggy Wright, chair of Averett’s business department and professor of accounting.

“Averett has always thrived as a result of intense student-faculty interaction and this Center will increase these opportunities significantly. Every Averett student will benefit from relevant, market-driven curricular and co-curricular experiences leading to lifelong career competitiveness.”

Vigouroux also will work to augment the reach and impact of the already highly successful Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness at Averett by working with the CCECC staff to create new career development pipelines and potential experiential learning projects like service-learning and issue-based learning courses. Faculty inspired interdisciplinary project-based learning, idea creation, and collaborative problem-solving are just a few of the experiential learning opportunities this new center will provide. In addition, Averett will develop a speaker series that will pull from Vigouroux’s extensive connections to feature corporate innovators, entrepreneurs, Averett alumni and both public- and private-sector organizations.

“This new focus and expertise on innovation and entrepreneurship at Danville’s hometown university will certainly benefit the city and the region, as well,” said Ken Larking, Danville city manager. “We look forward to developing more strategic partnerships that will provide new revenue and resource opportunities for both Averett students and for industry in the region.”