Appointees enrich Hofstra’s Center for Entrepreneurship

Expert advice: Expert Travel Services cofounder and President Chris Lopinto will serve as the first-ever mentor-in-residence at Hofstra University's Center for Entrepreneurship.

They’re powering up at Hofstra University’s three-year-old Center for Entrepreneurship, where a transfusion of fresh blood is kicking innovation to new levels.

The center has tapped a diverse and experienced group of business and economic leaders to serve on a new Advisory Board, providing everything from financial support to program-development guidance to student mentoring.

Mentoring, obviously, is also the primary focus of the center’s first-ever “mentor in residence.” Chris Lopinto, president of Patchogue-based Expert Travel Services LLC (dba, officially assumes the role Feb. 1, according to Executive Dean Mark Lesko, who said the new position – not to be confused with Hofstra’s three entrepreneurs-in-residence – was created in direct response to popular demand.

“The entrepreneurs-in-residence develop curriculum, run workshops and, of course, provide mentoring,” Lesko told Innovate LI. “But we have experienced a growing demand for additional mentorships.

“We’ve asked Chris to devote is time to mentoring students, staff and innovative companies,” he added. “He’s walked the walk as a successful entrepreneur and has a great demeanor with the students.”

Lopinto, cofounder and president of circa-2005 startup Expert Travel Services, is also the founder of Patchogue-based consultancy Hillcrest Technologies, which he sold in 2006 to Bohemia-based BMB Consulting, shortly after founding Expert Travel Services with his father – himself an experienced entrepreneur – and his uncle, a former commercial pilot with now-defunct Continental Airlines.

“Chris brings a lot of experience to the table,” Lesko noted. “He’s an extraordinary mentor who will add a lot to the program.”

Mark Lesko: Kicking it up a notch.

The Center for Entrepreneurship has also added a new academic director: Richard Hayes, associate professor of management and entrepreneurship at Hofstra’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business, who will lead the creation of an “academic framework” for all center programs, according to the university.

“Richard Hayes and our new Advisory Board bring a wealth of expertise, experience and enthusiasm to the center,” Lesko said. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity for our students to learn from the best business minds in academia and the private and public sectors.”

Before coming to Hofstra, Hayes served on the faculty at North Carolina Central University’s business school, where he earned Graduate Teacher of the Year and Undergraduate Teacher of the Year honors. He also serves as a visiting associate professor at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.

The Advisory Board packs a real commercial punch. Helping guide Center for Entrepreneurship programming, including the popular Hofstra-Digital Remedy Venture Challenge, and otherwise foster innovative thinking are Kelley Couglan Heck, a developer with East Setauket-based Tritec Real Estate Co.; Daniel Deegan, a partner at Uniondale law firm Forchelli Deegan Terrana; John Dragotta, president and CEO of Melville-based Sovereign Global Advisors; and attorney Thomas Garry of New York City-based law firm Harris Beach PLLC.

Also serving on the new advisory board are Kevin Hesselbirg, CEO of The Gemini Companies, which has offices in Hauppauge; Paul Homer, managing director of Syosset-based Northwood Ventures; and Joshua Sason, founder and CEO of NYC-based investment company Magna.

While each is individually impressive, the new head mentor, academic director and Advisory Board members collectively represent a major forward thrust as the Center for Entrepreneurship steams into its third full year, according to Lesko.

“These new contributors will help us map out a strategic plan and help raise financial support, in addition to working directly with the students,” the executive dean said. “With their variety of business backgrounds and experiences, we’re in a better position to chart a new entrepreneurial course for this sector.

“We’re really stepping up our game.”

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