Heather McWhorter Named Director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Following a national search, Heather McWhorter has been named director of UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), beginning July 1, 2022. McWhorter will lead the center in its promotion and support of entrepreneurship and innovative new ventures across southeastern North Carolina. 

“Our university strives to engage with community partners to expand regional innovation and economic opportunities,” said Dr. James J. Winebrake, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “The CIE is a key element in our strategy to discover and ignite these opportunities.” 

The center – which serves as a hub for the region – is a place where entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds can engage with expertise at the university, retired experts can give back to the next generation, new startups can collaborate and entrepreneurs can network with peers.   

Through CIE’s expansive network, McWhorter will lead efforts to strengthen the center’s impact by growing its signature programs such as CIE Mentors, All Blue and Chancellor’s Challenge, as well as partnerships with local and regional groups.   

“Heather brings a wealth of experience to CIE and its programs,” said Dr. Stuart Borrett, associate provost for research and innovation. “She has been an entrepreneur, she is an experienced engineer and she regularly teaches entrepreneurial leadership. She also has significant experience supporting the success of innovators, entrepreneurs and small business owners. I look forward to supporting her leadership and the resulting growth of CIE’s positive impact on the strong Wilmington entrepreneurial ecosystem.” 

The Wilmington area continues to be recognized as one of the top global startup ecosystems in the world, and in May was listed in the annual StartupBlink analysis as number one when compared to other cities of its size (populations between 100,000 – 300,000) in North America. McWhorter believes that Wilmington and the university are in a unique position to really make a difference in southeastern North Carolina through the support and resources offered by the center. 

“I am honored – ecstatic – to serve UNCW and the Wilmington region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem as the next CIE director,” said McWhorter. “My directorship will focus on supporting entrepreneur success, forming an entrepreneurial talent pipeline, and enhancing inclusivity and sustainability in high-growth potential startups. Building on existing momentum, I aim to position Wilmington as a global destination for entrepreneurs solving big problems.”  

McWhorter brings more than 12 years of experience in a variety of entrepreneurship and innovation leadership roles to this position, including serving as the CIE interim director since August 2021 and regional center director for the UNCW Small Business and Technology Development Center since 2017. She has directed the North Carolina SBTDC Business Launch Initiative since 2019, working with business launch specialists across multiple University of North Carolina campuses.  

Previously, McWhorter worked at Penn State for 17 years at the Penn State Small Business Development Center as the director and as an environmental consultant; as the director of the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program; and as the director of Penn State Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Outreach Initiatives. She was involved in the creation of programs such as Penn State Global Entrepreneurship Week, The Investment and TechCelerator.   

Prior to working with Penn State, McWhorter was a military contractor where she facilitated collaborative pollution prevention innovation work between the military branches and NASA. 

McWhorter holds an M.S. in energy and mineral engineering and a B.S. in chemical engineering from Penn State. She also holds a Professional Engineer license in environmental engineering. 

-- Megan Kauzlaric


Heather McWhorter