Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has been named an Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers, a group of more than 250 universities.
Other recipients of the 2020 award were Boston University, Eastern Washington University and Smith College. The centers, which had to have been nominated for the award within five years of launching, were judged on early success, engagement with stakeholders on and off campus, an established management team, novel or unique approaches and clearly established goals and objectives. Winners in recent years include Dartmouth College, Brown University, Vanderbilt University, Virginia Tech and Babson College.
“This recognition is a testament to Furman’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship and the unparalleled support by the campus community, alumni, parents, community members, administration and Board of Trustees,” said Anthony Herrera, executive director of Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “In just two short years, we have built a globally recognized institute and paved a way for Furman to lead nationally among liberal arts and sciences universities in the space of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
According to Herrera, three strengths set Furman apart from other universities.
“Our engaged faculty and students from across disciplines; strong ties with the community, including city and state government organizations as well as local venture capital groups; and a core group of alumni and parents who provide financial support, make the effort self-sustaining,” he noted.
“This award signals that a liberal arts and sciences education can be a catalyst for innovation, that students who come to Furman can have a profoundly impactful experience as innovators and entrepreneurs regardless of their choice of major,” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis. “We are grateful that the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers recognized Furman’s role in creating an ecosystem of entrepreneurship for our students, faculty and the community.”
“The heart of innovation and entrepreneurship is creativity, in identifying opportunities and solving problems,” said Kem Wilson III ’98, a Furman trustee and alumnus, principal of Kemmons Wilson Companies and supporter of Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “The entrepreneurial experience Furman students can experience will benefit them regardless of their career path.” Wilson’s grandfather founded Holiday Inn. The company that bears his name now manages a diverse portfolio of companies spanning a myriad of industries, from hospitality to green technology to consumer brands.
Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship sprang from The Furman Advantage and its focus on self-discovery, engaging the community and experiential education. It launched in August 2018 with Herrera’s hiring and has become “a perfect vehicle to encourage cross-disciplinary thinking and provide students, faculty and community members a place to participate in engaged learning experiences,” Herrera said.
Early successes include:
- A pitch competition that attracted more than 80 student competitors and culminated in the most-attended pitch competition in South Carolina’s history; 530 people attending the final round between six students, where $30,000 in startup grants were awarded.
- The Summer Business & Innovation virtual boot camp that has attracted 42 students from 10 universities across the Southeast. Following the boot camp, the City of Greenville funded 10 student internships with local startup ventures.
- A virtual academy for high school students that led 62 teens from 11 states and 11 countries through a capstone project to pitch a venture in innovation and entrepreneurship, sustainability or community health.
- The “Class E Podcast,” produced in partnership with the Furman Department of Communication Studies, which presents biweekly talks and interviews with entrepreneurs, innovators and disruptors from the Furman network. Fourteen episodes have drawn more than 1,000 listeners.
- “Leading in Times of Crisis,” a series of six virtual workshops for corporate, entrepreneurial and nonprofit leaders that attracted more than 1,000 registrants.
- Collaborations, partnerships and ongoing relationships with organizations, including the City of Greenville, SCBIO, Upstate SC Alliance, Greenville Area Development Corporation, Build Carolina, Village Launch, NEXT, 6AM and VentureSouth.
In addition to continuing and expanding its programs, Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship has extensive plans to become more engaged and integrated with Greenville, the Upstate and South Carolina. Herrera expects to make several announcements over the coming months about partnerships with corporate and community stakeholders.