John Carroll University’s Entrepreneurship Program was recently ranked 23rd in the country by U.S. News & World Report, just five years after its inception as an academic minor.
The director of the Entrepreneurship minor [eMinor], Jackie Schmidt, emphasized that the national recognition is largely attributed to the diversity of disciplines the program reaches.
“The ability to connect with a person from the sciences, someone from communication, and somebody from accounting and having them working together,” said Schmidt. “The ideas are going to be far more exciting and rich.”
The Entrepreneurship Program includes the eMinor, a 21-hour course study. This is one of the most popular minors on campus, with over 100 students enrolled.
The Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship provides connections within the Entrepreneurship Association, which allows students to network with a group of professionals. Eighty percent of these professionals are principal shareholders of private companies that are at least 5 years old, and have at least $1 million in annual revenues. The center also works with 11 other colleges and universities in Ohio through the Entrepreneurship Education Consortium (EEC) for the idea lab and immersion week competitions.
Universities like Pennsylvania State University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Massachusetts, The Ohio State University and Rhode Island College have contacted JCU to learn about the success of the program at a small university.
While many entrepreneurship programs across the country currently focus on the economic development and business proponent of entrepreneurship, Director of the Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship Mark Hauserman emphasizes that the business aspect is not as essential as one may think.
“Teaching entrepreneurship in the school of business is the hijacking of the century, because 75 percent of the entrepreneurs are not business students,” Hauserman said.
Schmidt agreed with this perspective.
“A lot of people think it’s pure business, and it really isn’t,” she explained. “It’s about when you have an idea, it’s about knowing how to evaluate it and figuring out how you can implement it. You don’t have to go out and start a business, you can be entrepreneurial in anything that you do.”
The eMinor was developed by the late Jack Soper, the John J. Kahl Chair in Entrepreneurship for the University, and Hauserman. This was done with a grant from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, an organization that has continued to support JCU’s program over the years. Schmidt was then assigned as the project manager, overseeing the development of the minor.
“It took about two years of investigation to figure out what to do,” said Hauserman. “We went to the top 13 programs in the United States and talked to the top faculty who were teaching those programs.”
“We’re not trying to teach students to start a business—that’s fool’s gold,” added Hauserman. “The average age of the start-up entrepreneur is 38. That’s the result of a 50 year linear study at MIT. When I tell that to parents who come to visit who say their son or daughter is here to study entrepreneurship, I say what we do is teach him or her a way of thinking, so they can go and get a job in something they really like and then look into how the business is done.”
Hauserman also explained what business owners are looking for in employees. “Owners don’t want someone sitting there who is just punching the clock, they want you to think about what is it we’re doing that we can be making better. That is extremely valuable to them. Then after you have gotten this experience, you can see how this all operates.”
The program was also nationally recognized in 2012 by Bloomberg Business Week as the 18th best program in the nation – up from 43rd in 2011 – and the best undergraduate entrepreneurship program in Ohio.
This year, the eMinor club was developed as an organization for students to meet outside of class to talk about the minor across disciplines, as well as partake in networking opportunities.
Senior Rachel Distler, vice president of the club, said, “I feel that the program’s success has pushed me to get more involved. Once you get a taste of it, you just keep going and digging and connecting with more and more people because you start to see how beneficial it really is.”
Students have access through the Entrepreneurship Association to a hatchery that gives students the ability to pitch their ideas for contest entry or funding with the help of a mentor.
The Soper Award for Social Entrepreneurship, a competition held Nov. 17 in honor of Jack Soper, was just awarded to five students: junior Angelica Bucci and seniors Tess Barsody, Gil Murphy, Randall Hoover and Parker Phillips for their idea of “TreeShirts.” This idea is a venture that would sell U.S.-made shirts to fund the planting of trees for permanent growth in the deforested country of Brazil.
Hoover, president of the eMinor club and team member, said that they are in the process of working with the hatchery and the entrepreneurship program to make the idea a reality.
“Since then, we’ve spoken with some distribution centers and it looks like we could make it into something real,” said Hoover. “I mean it’s still technically a final project—we have our paper due next Tuesday for it. But, the recognition just pushes us to keep working on it.”
Schmidt added that with a new grant from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, the program plans to propose developments entrepreneurial focus within the JCU core curriculum. She also hopes to focus on developing the social entrepreneurship component in lieu of the Soper Award.
“The program’s first goal was to get the minor up and running and to be strong,” she explained. Schmidt described the program’s vision for the near future. “Now, our goal is to develop the minor more and to do some fine tuning. After five years, we’ve learned, and hopefully we can capture some opportunities where we can connect it more with the larger core. That way, people can also build a stronger base for understanding [of entrepreneurship] in different learning communities.”