By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–Indiana University Southeast and Purdue Polytechnic University/New Albany have launched a new partnership in entrepreneurship education.
At a ceremony on the campus of IU Southeast, Chancellor Dr. Ray Wallace of IU Southeast and Associate Dean for Purdue Polytechnic Statewide Andy Schaffer formally signed the partnership documents for the dual curriculum program.
“This is a great day when two universities can come together to celebrate a joint program,” Wallace said.
First of its kind
The dual curriculum partnership is the first of its kind in the region, offering students and community members the opportunity to pursue entrepreneurship education taught by IU Southeast and Purdue faculty.
As an added feature, by completing a five-course sequence at both campuses, students have the option of earning a certificate in entrepreneurship from IU Southeast. The certificate is open not just to currently enrolled students, but to anyone, with the intention that small business owners and other community members will sign up to gain needed expertise in areas that can help them succeed.
“Any community member who wants to learn more about entrepreneurship, business planning or prototyping now has the opportunity to come to IU Southeast or Purdue and earn this credential so they can grow their business,” said Lisa Russell, assistant professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship at IU Southeast.
Russell coordinated various conversations around collaboration and entrepreneurship, and ultimately took charge of moving the program through the administrative hoops required for approval by state accrediting bodies. The five-year effort had begun informally enough, in the Entrepreneurship Academy, an annual summer leadership retreat for local high school students held on the IU Southeast campus that enjoys the support of Purdue University. A small group of instructors from both schools, including Russell, began talking about how they might build something larger in the spirit of the Academy, and like the Academy, with significant community involvement and benefit.
“That was the impetus,” Russell said. “And the certificate is the result.”
A larger vision
The certificate and dual curriculum are just part of a larger vision for economic development in the region.
By combining IU Southeast’s strengths in business and entrepreneurship with Purdue’s expertise in innovation and engineering, both institutions see the program as a potential incubator of startups, and hence a real contributor to prosperity.
Inventors from Purdue who create prototypes will gain the business skills needed to bring them to market, and IU Southeast students with mastery of pathways to profitability will learn how to develop technically refined prototypes to build their businesses around.
“The Purdue and IU coursework in this Certificate program develops workplace competencies crucial to our region’s economic growth, as it prepares our graduates for high-demand, high-wage careers,” Schaffer said.
Key to this growth is aligning academic goals with economic needs and opportunities in order to offer local students and entrepreneurs the tools they need to compete successfully.
“This program will help us strengthen our roots in the community,” said David Eplion, dean of the IU Southeast School of Business.
The two institutions have fostered entrepreneurship in various ad hoc ways for many years. But this is the first time they have collaborated officially to develop a program of required courses from both universities.
The impulse is especially timely, according to guest speaker Bryce Butler, founder and managing partner of Access Ventures, a Louisville, Ky.-based impact investing group that deploys holistic investments to see communities flourish.
“Entrepreneurs are the engine that creates our future economy,” Butler said. “Entrepreneurs are problem solvers and value creators.”
But entrepreneurs and small businesses are struggling in today’s economy, which is dominated by larger corporations. In fact fewer Americans are starting firms now than at any time in the past century, Butler noted, with access to capital an especially acute challenge for women and minority owned businesses.
The partnership gives Butler hope that even in an era of overwhelming capital concentration, strategies for small-business prosperity can be developed through local collaborations.
“No one organization can do it all,” Butler said. “It takes investors, mentors, technical assistance providers, local and state government and institutions of higher learning to create a robust ecosystem that can attract and retain the talent we desire to have in our community.”
A new chapter
With its emphasis on leveraging strengths for a shared advantage rather than on the traditional competition for prospective students,and its clear-minded focus on community economic development, the partnership opens a new chapter in the story of these universities, one in which institutions of higher learning augment their impact on local and regional economies without duplicating services.
“Today, what we are witnessing between Purdue and IU Southeast is unlike anything in the country,” Butler said.
As proof that the future has already arrived, the program already has its first enrolled student: Dakota Russell, 17, of Floyd Central High School, attended the ceremony to help launch the program.
Dakota Russell will take courses in the certificate program during her senior year in high school, and will already have credits in hand when she enrolls in the college of her choice.
“I feel like I’m part of something really important,” she said, after the event.
Her presence, alongside Butler, was evidence that the developers of this program have achieved their goal of ensuring that the final product reaches broadly into the community.
“At the heart of most thriving communities is a vibrant entrepreneurial community,” said Eplion. “And this partnership helps promote that.”
Homepage photo: IU Southeast Chancellor Dr. Ray Wallace (l) and Associate Dean for Purdue Polytechnic Statewide Andy Schaffer (r) joined to sign the documents creating the partnership in entrepreneurship education.