09:12 AM

UST Announces New Director of McNair Center

Dr. Patrick WoockDr. Patrick Woock will join University of St. Thomas as director of the McNair Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship on May 15. The McNair Center's purpose is to promote education and research into the free enterprise system, entrepreneurship and enhanced economic growth.

Woock recently served as assistant professor of Cultural Entrepreneurship at University of Minnesota, Duluth teaching classes in Cultural Entrepreneurship, Creative Problem Solving and Foundations of Cultural Entrepreneurship. Dr. Woock’s international teaching experience includes Wenzhou, China and Monterrey, Mexico. Prior to teaching, he built ETT Investments in Shanghai, Beijing and Dalian, China, and mentored for SCORE in Florida, Minn.

“The McNair Center will serve as the engine for tomorrow's impactful growth by supporting entrepreneurial students' spiritual development while giving them the tools to make a difference in their communities,” Woock said.

Woock earned a Ph.D. in Management Science and Engineering with an emphasis on international entrepreneurship in 2015 from the University of Science and Technology in Hefei, China. He also possesses a B.A. and MBA.

McNair Center at UST

The McNair Center at the University of St. Thomas will develop leaders through a combination of robust academic offerings, mentorship programs and experiential learning.

“Under Dr. Woock’s leadership, we are excited to see the McNair Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship fulfill our commitment to educating a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders who have both the skills and the understanding of how the free enterprise system forms the basis of economic opportunity and prosperity for individuals in our country,” Kristi Cooper, Executive Director of the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, said.

The Center will now be a component of The St. Maximilian Kolbe Innovation Network, better known as “The Max.” The Max is a space for rapid creation, formation and flourishing of new ideas, new activities and programs, innovation and research. A key goal of The Max is to make central the “human element” of innovation, technology and discovery for all of its endeavors within and without the network. The Max is administered to encourage ingenuity, creativity and participation.

“With its focus on igniting the entrepreneurial spirit of our students, the Center fits well within the MAX,” Dr. Beena George, Chief Innovation Officer at UST, said. “Under the leadership of Dr. Woock, we will help bring to fruition the creativity of our students.”


The McNair Center offers Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship programs for undergraduate and graduate students of the University of St. Thomas. For undergraduates, the Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship minor is tailored to each student’s major.

The Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship concentration is offered as part of the MBA program. Three courses are required to complete the concentration.

A certificate program in Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship will be offered by the Center. Upon completion, learners will earn a digital badge, which can be added to LinkedIn and other professional networking sites.

UST Pitch Competition

University of St. Thomas’ McNair Center will host the second annual BOLD IDEAS Pitch Competition on June 27, 2020 and encourages high school, college and university students to register.

Last year, UST’s McNair Center hosted and generously supported the first Bold IDEAS Pitch Competition on campus in April. The university partnered with Houston Community College, Station Houston, and the Global Energy Mentors to provide trainings and support for the competition.

The McNair Center provides access to Riipen, virtual internships

Riipen is an experiential learning software platform that allows us to bring more real-world problems to our courses.

Riipen provides access to a vast project library from which instructors can select assignments for their students. Students are able to connect with companies through in-class projects facilitated by an instructor. Instructors can also post their course in the Riipen course library to share their industry-relevant assignment in the Riipen marketplace.

‘Riipen also offers the opportunity for students to gain experience this summer through virtual project-based internships,” Paula Marsh, director of UST Career Services, said. “By working on a project team, students will have the opportunity to engage with employers in their field of interest, and gain valuable experience to help them grow in their career.”

“We are also exploring the use of Riipen for additional opportunities for students including skill challenges, hack-a-thons and case competitions,” George said. “These opportunities result in richer learning outcomes for our students, helping students gain experience working on real world business problems. Such experiences provide students the opportunity to engage with the business community, work in teams to identify and solve business problems, and boost the student’s confidence in working on business problems on their own.”

The University of St. Thomas is Houston’s Catholic University. For more than 70 years, UST has graduated students into successful careers in medicine, education, business, public administration and more. As Houston grows, UST will continue to provide the strong leaders and skilled workers needed to meet those demands.