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Leading in Central MA: Joyce Kressler, AoSL Worcester Incubator

Monday, April 21, 2014


Joyce Kressler has a remarkable track record of accomplishment in the arts, education and community engagement. It includes a14-year tenure as executive director of First Night Worcester. The non-profit organization produces the largest and most diverse visual and performing arts festival in Central Massachusetts, attracting audiences in the tens of thousands annually.

Under Joyce’s leadership, First Night Worcester also developed K-through-12 arts-education and professional-development programs in the Worcester Public Schools in partnership with local colleges and cultural institutions. Benefiting thousands of students and their teachers, the collaborations ranged from innovative art/science programming to initiating the only deaf-youth theater residency in the region.

In recognition of her “central role in fostering the creative economy in Worcester,” Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick appointed her to the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She is a founding member and former Vice Chair of the Worcester Cultural Coalition, a 2009 Commonwealth Award winner for its success in building a vibrant cultural sector in Massachusetts’ second-largest city. A Worcester resident, Joyce has also served as president of Forum Theatre, on the board of Mechanics Hall, as corporator of the Worcester Art Museum, and is the recipient of the Katharine Erskine Award for Arts & Culture. She holds a BFA from Boston University.

A Conversation with Joyce Kressler

SW: What is Art of Science Learning (AOSL) and what is your involvement?

JK: I am director of the Worcester Incubator for Innovation administering a National Science Foundation/Art of Science Learning grant designed to test a new innovation training curriculum that uses the arts to drive creative thinking and critical analysis. Guided by national artists, faculty, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) professionals, the cutting-edge program is an effort that re-imagines science education to better prepare the next generation of 21st Century STEM innovators.

SW: Lets talk about how AOSL came to Worcester?

JK: Worcester competed successfully with several other and much larger communities to be one of the AOSL incubators, developing their winning proposal through a high level of initiative, creative planning and excellent collaboration between local stake-holders and organizations. The lead organization in Worcester is the EcoTarium, a unique indoor-outdoor museum, whose mission is to “contribute to a better world by inspiring a passion for science and nature through discovery”. The Worcester Incubator Advisory Council has 20 leaders from education, museums, businesses, and city government helping to guide the effort and organize participation and contributions.

SW: How exactly does this process work?

JK: All 3 host cities (Worcester, Chicago, and San Diego) have identical curriculum to a point. There are twelve modules taught by national faculty. We also work with a lead local faculty to integrate Worcester’s chosen civic challenge which is to integrate arts-based and STEM learning with innovation practices to research, plan, and develop new transportation solutions to enhance Worcester’s economic productivity, connect its neighborhoods and communities, and improve the quality of life for its residents and visitors.

SW: You use volunteers to achieve these goals. Who are they?

JK: This is a collaborative process with no barriers to learning. Volunteers come from across all sectors and each perspective counts. Teams are made up of high school and college students, business leaders, STEM professionals and artists. There are also city officials, politicians, and transportation experts. I am so honored and in awe of the commitment of these volunteers who are in this for a whole year. We are all realizing that this project is bigger than all of us and is extremely rich. Everyone comes from a different perspective and all are valued and contribute equally.

SW: What are the teams being asked to do around transportation?

JK: This is not let’s design a monorail. The goal is to identify transportation issues and challenges in the city and the steps that need to be developed to create a product, process, service or program by the completion of the program on January 4, 2015. There is an expectation of of 10 deliverable solutions, ,,even small or incremental ideas that can make a difference.

SW: How did you come to be the director?

JK: I stepped into the project in the middle. The original director had to step down for personal reasons. When they began a national search, it was suggested by members of the Advisory Council that I apply. I went to New York and interviewed and as they say, the rest is history.

SW: What is your vision for this project?

JK: This project is ambitious. It is attempting to do a number of things, all at once, in a relatively short period of time:

•Test a new cutting-edge curriculum

•Integrate arts-based learning and corporate innovation practices

•Study collaborative behaviors

•Re-think STEM education

•Address lacking 21st century workforce skills

•Develop new transportation solutions

But perhaps, most importantly from my personal perspective, if there are resulting measurements that reinforce the existing correlation as to how creativity affects outcomes, the arts can be relegated to the rightful stature of importance in education.

SW: What is on the drawing board for 2014?

JK: Worcester incubator activities kicked off in March of 2014 when the Worcester Incubator began. Events includes an Introduction to The Art of Science Learning that took place on April 10th as part of the Hanover Lyceum Series, on May 10th there will be a Community Transportation Day at the EcoTarium, as well additional events being planned during the year to engage the public in explorations of local, regional and national innovation at the intersection of art, science and learning, presented by the Art of Science Learning’s Worcester Incubator for Innovation. We’ll share outcomes and preliminary findings from the National Science Foundation-funded Art of Science Learning project once all the research is collated.

SW: How is it going?

JK: There are times where I am able to just step back and have a WOW moment where I realize that it is happening and they (the Art of Science Learning Fellows) get it!

SW: Who or what has had the greatest influence on your life?

JK: It's a collective who: my friends, who teach, inspire, encourage, and support me.

SW: What is your favorite quote?

JK: “Definition of a camel is a racehorse designed by a committee.”

SW: What is the something that few p eo p le know about you?

JK: In my next life, I plan to be a rock star.

SW: How do you define success?

JK: When you open the door for others to be successful.

SW: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

JK: Showing the world to my grandchildren.


GoLocalWorcester presents Leading in Central Ma, a weekly profile of an outstanding community or business leader. Join us every Monday for an inspiring look at the careers and lifestyles of Central Massachusetts’s most influential citizens. If you have suggestions for a profile, please email [email protected].

Susan D. Wagner is president of Susan Wagner PR, a boutique public relations firm invested in meeting client's goals with integrity and creativity.


Related Slideshow: Worcester’s Tech Startups

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Buzz Lanes started out as a small idea for a Business Model Competition at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Success there led to the semifinalist round at Harvard, and a new business that aims to accelerate the careers of talented musicians that don’t have big marketing campaign resources.

“As graduates of WPI’s School of Business, and with several years of experience in the entertainment world, we decided to push forward and make Buzz Lanes a reality,” said Gonazlo Cruz Blanco, the man behind Buzz Lanes.

A native of Spain, Blanco's passion for music and business led to the creation of this monthly subscription music platform. One of the bands he’s promoting right now is Heffay, a Worcester Hip Hop band.

“It’s a win-win situation: musicians grow their fan base and connect with new fans, and the fans will always have the opportunity to find new music they haven’t heard before.”

The company's online Beta version launches April 4, 2014

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Salespod (Repsly)

Salespod makes mobile/cloud software for organizations to manage field teams and the data that they collect.

“We currently have 2200 users in 31 countries, and are growing 10 to 15 percent per month. We are getting ready to launch a major marketing initiative and expect to grow to over 10,000 users this year,” said Mat Brogie, Salespod, Inc. COO.

“The software runs on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, and there is a web based management console that managers use to see where and when field reps perform their activities, and to analyze the data these field reps generate.”

Salespod has a research and development office in Zagreb, Croatia, and has established the Worcester office to launch its US presence. The company started in Worcester last year with only 800 users.

“There is a growing culture entrepreneurism in the city, and the physical changes in town add to the energy that is building … not to mention the economics are extremely friendly for a start-up trying to maximize the use of cash.”

Salespod announced in March that they would be making a name/logo change to Repsly.

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Incite Advisors, Inc

Incite Advisors, Inc. provides Web application development services for applications in the healthcare and life sciences.

“We are focused on data driven applications and visualizing big data. Our largest client has hired us to develop a web/mobile application that allows doctors to capture patient diagnostic information in the natural course of their work,” said Incite founder and President Ronald Ranauro.

“The application will allow for rapid updates as medical knowledge advances. The idea is that by using the computer care teams can more easily coordinate services. We are also developing a web application for visualizing and searching big picture trends in clinical trials. In support of our work, we have developed an open source software toolkit called BoxspringJS.”

Ranauro grew up in Central Massachusetts and graduated from WPI. He said his company is reaching out to the student population to offer training and real world experience on paid customer projects.

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Technocopia is a non-profit (tax-exempt status pending) geared towards creating open-source technologies that will benefit the whole world. As part of this mission they are opening a “hackerspace” in Worcester, which will serve as a home-base for their research and development of these technologies, as well as a common collaborative space for anyone in Central Massachusetts to make their own projects into reality.

Their hackerspaces feature a lounge, kitchen, conference space and computer stations. Technocopia intends to support the development of open-source technology that will allow any individual, family, or community to sustainably and independently satisfy their own humanitarian needs. These needs are defined loosely as things such as nutritious food, clean water, shelter, electricity, medicine, and free access to knowledge (the internet).

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Mass Biomedical

Self-described as “World class incubators for world class science,” Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI) is dedicated to job creation and innovative healthcare throughout Massachusetts by promoting the growth of start-up biomedical companies. MBI is committed to collaborating with the academic, business and government communities to promote Massachusetts as the world leader in the health sciences industry.

Kevin O’Sullivan is the President & CEO of MBI, located on Prescott Street. O’Sullivan describes the company as a private, independent economic development organization that serves as a catalyst for life science and healthcare innovation.

“We help start biomedical companies and create jobs within the Biotechnology, Medical Device, Informatics, and Biomanufacturing industry by providing secure, clean bench and sink surface, staff trained and fully licensed laboratory space for usage by ‘seed stage’ companies. Building and maintaining collaborative affiliations and partnerships are essential to our success.”

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What would a tech company list be without a little fun? While neighboring Rhode Island smarts over Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios disaster, MassDiGI is pushing academic cooperation, entrepreneurship and economic development across the Massachusetts digital and video games ecosystem.

MassDiGI is a US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) University Center. Since starting up, MassDiGI has launched several initiatives that support entrepreneurship and strengthen the talent pipeline between higher education and the game industry.

Timothy Loew, Executive Director of MassDiGI, formerly held senior positions in business, development and academic planning at Becker College.

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Compex Software

Jonathan Vo, Principal and Founder of Compex Software, is another Worcester Polytechnic Institute grad succeeding in the WPI neighborhood.

Vo’s software company has successfully deployed many of its software applications at hundreds of specialized operations throughout the US. Like others on this list, Compex Software came about as result of a student project. Vo did so well that he was recommended to an independent company and he’s never looked back.

Compex Software designs, develops and implements integrated business management software solutions to help small- and medium- sized businesses manage their operations. This includes manufacturing, inventory tracking, job costing, quality control, and accounting.

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Yumei Huang is the Founder, President & CEO, CellMosaic, Inc. The company recently signed a collaboration research agreement (CRADA) with the National Cancer Institute to co-develop two AqT based conjugate drugs. One is an antibody-drug conjugate for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma and another is a protein-drug conjugate targeting CA125 for the treatment of ovarian cancer.

Under the agreement, NCI will provide its proprietary antibody and CellMosaic will design and synthesize an antibody-drug conjugate and protein-drug conjugate using its proprietary AqT linker and advanced conjugation processes. The CRADA grants CellMosaic an exclusive license option from NCI for any new products developed under this CRADA.


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