University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

Rex Van Ashbrook

  • Adjunct Professor Entrepreneurship

My educational background is in engineering and business administration. My thirty-five year business career was with smaller but global corporations producing market leading industrial products in very competitive global environments.  Specific positions progressed from, engineer to intrapreneur, plant manager to business unit manager, business development to strategic initiative leader. Innovation was a common theme through all assignments with objectives including process, product and business development, operational excellence and business revitalization.

From these experiences I learned the importance of innovation to the external business - growth and long term sustainability, but also and just as importantly to the enterprise in creating effective internal operations and a positive, productive and “entrepreneurial” organizational culture.

 My “career” in college level instruction began in 2012 with (what is now) the University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute in mentoring undergraduate student teams competing in the Randall Family Big Idea Competition and in supporting other entrepreneurial initiatives. This experience led to similar roles in the Katz graduate program in coaching student teams participating in field consulting and business simulation competitions.

My involvement at UPJ began in 2014 by supporting the IdeaLab course in serving as a “shark” for student mid-term presentations and final competition, and as coach or mentor for specific student ventures. In 2017 I was able to contribute to the expansion of UPJ’s entrepreneurial program by developing the content for a second course for the minor. The Entrepreneur’s Toolkit reinforces and expands the IdeaLab curriculum to focus on the commercialization phases of innovation, further preparing the student in advancing their envisioned business venture and/or for a career as in entrepreneur or intrapreneur.


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