If you want to be an entrepreneur and start something, you must start somewhere, from something that doesn’t exist. Where are you going to start? According to Associate Professor of Management and Director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship, Alesia Slocum, D.B.A., it’s like deciding where to draw a line in the sand on a pristine beach, hundreds of miles long. A tricky thing to decide. Luckily, that line in the sand already exists at Shenandoah University, and its existence can help future entrepreneurs decide where to draw their lines.
The Institute for Entrepreneurship, founded by Dean of the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business Miles Davis, Ph.D., and now under the direction of Dr. Slocum, is approaching its fourth year in existence. Part of the vision of the Institute is to become recognized as a provider of individualized business education driven by entrepreneurial thinking, global understanding and ethical practice. It aims to provide courses that support the entrepreneurial spirit with practical knowledge in management, marketing, finance and law with practical real-life applications.
The institute is connected to an academic major and minor in which students from across the university are exposed to entrepreneurial themes in specialized courses. There are a handful of students presently majoring in entrepreneurship and nearly 25 students minoring in the program–a very successful enrollment for the short time the program has existed.
However, the institute is much more than just a program of study. It has carved out an entrepreneurial niche that provides a space for students to go if they need to study, research information or garner support from institute mentors. Housed on the third floor of Halpin-Harrison Hall, the institute has a cozy space where the Executive-in-Residence sits and provides mentoring and counseling services for students, crafts classroom lectures and provides students with job search advice as well as career and job performance counseling.
The institute also provides an impetus for adding extra activities that enrich students in the entrepreneurial spirit. One of the main activities promoted by the institute is participation in the Kauffman’s Foundation Global Entrepreneurship Week, the largest celebration of entrepreneurship in the world. During the week, the institute hosts a number of guest speakers and activities. This past year’s lectures were presented by Tim League, founder of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema; Jennifer Bell, City of Winchester downtown manager; Marilyn Finnemore, CEO of Mind & Media and owner of Bright Box Theater; Michael Guevremont, president and CEO of the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber; and Jeffrey Hester ‘85, CEO of Family Alliance.
Faculty enrichment and research is also promoted by the institute. This summer the institute hopes to help send professors to sessions at The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation focusing on social entrepreneurship. The institute also hopes to provide Coleman Fellow support. Drs. Davis and Slocum recently published “Teaching and Evaluating the Differences in an International Entrepreneurial Environment” in the Academy of Business Disciplines Journal. Their research evaluates the pedagogical challenges for teaching international “Other-than-Home” entrepreneurship and offers a conclusive framework for students to use when evaluating their projects.
“One of the things that Dr. Davis has done in creating the Institute for Entrepreneurship,” says Slocum, “is that he has the place and the space–which is one of the things that we teach students to do–so it’s legitimized in the eyes of whomever your customers might be… The objective would be to create something out of nothing, slowly based upon having drawn two lines in the sand–one is the new major and the other is the Institute for Entrepreneurship.” Now that the institute has drawn its lines in the sand, it has the ability to grow and flourish, helping a multitude of other draw theirs.