rl5 headshotDr. Richard Lester, Executive Director

Richard Lester is the executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, and a clinical professor in the Department of Management at Mays Business School.

Lester graduated with his BS from Wright State University, earned his Executive MBA from the University of Houston and received his Ph.D. in Strategic Management from Texas A&M University in 2003.

His current research interests focus on corporate governance, upper echelons and entrepreneurship. Prior to his academic career, Lester spent 25 years working primarily at oil and gas-related firms. His last corporate position was vice president and general manager in Houston, Texas.

Blake Petty, Director


Blake Petty is the director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship. Petty received his bachelor’s from Texas A&M in ’98 and his master’s in 2000. After graduating from A&M, he worked in administrative positions at the university and Texas A&M System, including a 10-year stint in the Office of Technology Commercialization.

Most recently, Petty served as assistant vice president of Research and coordinated all Innovation, Industry Relations and Business Development initiatives at Texas A&M. He also facilitated commercialization and entrepreneurship opportunities for the campus and its faculty researchers. In addition, he served as a founding partner in the launch of Startup Aggieland.

Don Lewis, Executive Professor, Director, Blackstone LaunchPad

Don Lewis has been an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Management at Mays Business School since 1999. Lewis is general partner and major shareholder in several real estate businesses. He received his BBA (Management) ’86 and MBA (IT) ’92 from Texas A&M and Texas A&M International University, respectively.

Prior to his academic career, Lewis spent several years in Europe and then in Bryan College Station working as an entrepreneur. He is the recipient of the Student Led Award for Teaching Excellence, International Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship, Newman 10 award for one of the 10 fastest-growing businesses in Bryan College Station and is involved in a number of service roles in the local community. Lewis is married and has two children, Megan and Kylan. His areas of interest include issues in entrepreneurial and small business education and international business.

Shanna Spencer, Program Manager


Shanna Spencer is the program manager for the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship. Spencer graduated with her BS in Kinesiology from Texas A&M in 2004. After graduation, she worked as a marketing coordinator for Conference USA in Irving.

Spencer returned to Texas A&M ad earned her MS in Kinesiology in 2007. As a graduate student, she worked for Texas A&M Sports Properties, and continued in a full time role as the promotions coordinator upon graduation.


Chuck Hinton, Director, NSF I-Corps


Chuck Hinton is responsible for promotion of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) program. I-Corps prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory, and broaden the impact of select NSF-funded basic research projects.

Hinton leads CNVE’s efforts as part of the Southwest I-Corps Node, one of seven national partnerships of universities funded by NSF to support I-Corps expansion. Texas A&M University, along with UT-Austin, Rice University and Texas Tech University, share responsibilities for promotion of this high-impact program and recruitment of I-Corps Team applicants.

Hinton received two degrees from Texas A&M: a bachelor’s degree in business in 1976 and an MBA in 1978. After a successful career in natural gas exploration/drilling/production, Hinton more recently became familiar with CNVE as a volunteer mentor working with entrepreneurial students at Startup Aggieland. While leading efforts to recruit and train mentors for their student programs, Hinton developed a deep understanding and appreciation for Startup Aggieland’s Lean Launch Methodology – which shares the same principals applied in I-Corps training.

Shelly Brenckman, Marketing Coordinator (Startup Aggieland)

Shelly Brenckman is the marketing coordinator for Startup Aggieland. Brenckman also serves as webmaster, social media manager and mentor for Startup Aggieland. Before joining the team at Startup Aggieland, she was the vice president of Communications for Texas A&M-funded Aggie Angel Network, Inc.

Brenckman is the recipient of 10 ADDY and IABC Awards for Graphic Design; and a Lifetime Service Award from U.S. President George H.W. Bush and the Points of Light Institute. She was a presenter at the 2013 World Future Society International Conference in Chicago and at the 2014 Ventures Start Workshop, hosted by Research Valley Partnership.

Brenckman is very involved in the Aggie Network and local community. In 2010, she established a Boy Scouts of America Scholarship at Texas A&M and continues to support current students by actively participating in organizations such as Texas A&M Century Club, A&M Mother’s Club, 12th Man Foundation, Texas A&M Corps of Cadets and Fighting Texas Aggie Band and KAMU-TV.

Dr. Gerald David Flint, Clinical Associate Professor


David Flint has been involved in entrepreneurial activities since the early 1980s and is presently involved with five small business endeavors covering software, real estate, insurance, education outside of the United States and transportation activities. Flint also serves on the board of several nonprofit organizations with both domestic and international activities. He is leading CNVE’s development of new entrepreneurial curriculum.

Flint earned a BA from Grand Canyon University in 1986, an MIM from Thunderbird in 1990 and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M in 1997. His undergraduate education focused on history and computer science studies. His master’s level studies focused on the development of the EU market and its institutions. Flint’s doctoral studies focused on business/government relationships and their strategic implications for the conduct of business domestically and internationally. Strategic management and international management courses are his areas of teaching emphasis at Mays.

Jessica Minks, Communications Student Worker


Jessica is a Graduate Student seeking a Master of Science in Marketing after graduating from Texas A&M in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a minor in Business Administration. She is scheduled to complete her MS in December 2017. Jessica joined the CNVE staff in June 2016 to manage social media and website content, assist in a variety of special projects and help coordinate our events.

During her time at Texas A&M, Jessica has become an active member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority where she participated on Risk Management Committee and was an Assistant Social Chair to plan events geared towards sisterhood and the national philanthropy, Domestic Violence Awareness.  In addition, she spent her Spring 2015 semester studying abroad in Castiglione Fiorentino, Italy and volunteers with Big Event annually as well as with Grace Bible Church in the College Station area.

Cate DuBose, Event Planning Student Worker

Cate is a SenCateior seeking a Horticultural Sciences degree with an emphasis in Event Planning and Floral Design, and a Minor in Tourism Management. She achieved her Associate’s of Business from Blinn College in December of 2015. Cate joined the CNVE staff in January 2016 to help coordinate and execute events.

Before attending college, Cate was an Irish Dancer for 5 years, traveling across the United States for different competitions and performances. More recently, she was a member of Squadron 18 in the Corps of Cadets, where she helped teach freshman and transfer students how to apply the University’s core values to their everyday lives. She was also a member of Aggie Transition Camps which is an organization that teaches transfer students about the traditions of Texas A&M University.

Kennedy Porter, Event Planning Student Worker


Kennedy Porter is a Freshman seeking a Bachelor of Business Administration in Business Honors and Marketing, along with a Minor in Performance Studies. She also hopes to pursue a certificate in Not-for-Profit Business. She is a member of the Startup Aggieland Living Learning Community and hopes to become a Fellow in the Fall 2016. Kennedy joined the CNVE staff in January 2016 to help coordinate and execute events.

Kennedy is also a member of Kappa Delta Sorority where she serves as a recruitment day assistant and a receiver for the 4-on-4 Flag Football Team. She is also a member of the Aggie Yacht Club and is trained in theatrical performance, costume design and stage management.