Lesko leaves, so Hofstra Entrepreneurship Sikes up

Executive decision: Stacey Sikes, Mark Lesko's longtime right-hand woman, is the new executive dean of Hofstra University's Center for Entrepreneurship.

The student has become the master at Hofstra University, where Stacey Sikes is the new executive dean of the Center for Entrepreneurship.

Sikes succeeds former Executive Dean Mark Lesko, the first-ever head of the innovation-heavy business-development center, who has left the university to return to the field of law. Lesko, whose long résumé includes years as a federal prosecutor, said Monday he’ll be making an official announcement about his new gig soon.

Neither has Hofstra formally announced Sikes’ promotion to the executive dean’s office, which – along with Lesko’s departure – became official Oct. 1. But on Monday, the Center for Entrepreneurship’s new head honcho and former senior assistant dean confirmed the personnel moves and called her promotion “really exciting.”

“I think Mark and I have done a lot over the last three years,” Sikes said. “Now that I’m executive dean, I plan to continue implementing Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz’s vision and making the Center for Entrepreneurship one of the best entrepreneurship hubs in the country.

“Mark was a great mentor,” she added. “We worked together for a long time and I learned a lot from him.”

After a nine-year professional affiliation, that admiration flows both ways. Lesko on Monday sang Sikes’ praises, noting his longtime executive assistant – through his years at the Center for Entrepreneurship, his tenure as executive director of the startup seed-funder Accelerate Long Island and all the way back to his days as Town of Brookhaven supervisor – was the perfect choice to take over center operations.

Mark Lesko: Law man, again.

“The university’s entrepreneurship program is in great hands with Dean Stacey Sikes and her team,” Lesko told Innovate LI. “I look forward to watching them continue to build a world-class entrepreneurship center at Hofstra.”

Sikes takes the reins at a moment of transition, and not just because of the personnel shift. The Center for Entrepreneurship is gearing up for a physical relocation, slated for early 2019, from its current home in Hofstra’s Joan and Donald E. Axinn Library to the university’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business, where it will be part of a new, supersized ideaHUb, the school’s collaborative workspace for students and startup companies.

The reimagined ideaHUb (which is also moving over from the Axinn Library) will occupy nearly the entire first floor of the Zarb School, giving Hofstra’s entrepreneurship efforts what Sikes called “the look and feel of a New York City co-working space.”

Much of the state-of-the-art incubator space will be dedicated to the new Center for Entrepreneurship, including permanent desk space for 20 startup companies, a maker space, conference rooms, a lounge, a kitchenette and what Sikes called an “open event space,” ideal for early-stage enterprises to strut their stuff.

The relocated entrepreneurship center figures to interact plenty with Hofstra’s new Behavioral Science/Market Research Laboratory, located on the Zarb School’s fourth floor, while that first-floor incubator area will feature a plethora of physical amenities designed to increase comfort, promote productivity and just “look really cool,” according to the new executive dean – including high ceilings and all-glass garage-type doors that can be lifted to give the ideaHUb a sweeping, wide-open feel.

“It’s a great space,” Sikes noted. “And moving in there is really exciting for us.”

The new digs will be ideal for continuing the Center for Entrepreneurship’s climb into the stratosphere of regional economic-development greatness. Sikes is already knee-deep into plans for Year Two of the Hofstra Healthcare Community Challenge, which is funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s competitive i6 Challenge grant program, and for the next round of the Hofstra Digital Remedy Venture Challenge series, which has already bestowed tens of thousands of dollars upon early-stage companies created by Hofstra students.

Sikes is also psyched about overseeing operations of the Scott Skodnek Business Development Center, Hofstra’s state-funded small-biz support system focused heavily on minority- and women-owned businesses.

Lesko, who “enjoyed my time at Hofstra and was particularly impressed with the quality of the students and their commitment to entrepreneurship,” is equally impressed with his former protégé and her prospects of working without a net.

And Sikes, for her part, is ready to rock.

“I think this is a great opportunity,” the new executive dean said. “We’ve done a lot already, and there’s a lot of potential for the future as well.”

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