Program aims to provide students with skills, experience and network to accelerate learning see more
When he was a young boy, Oscar Guillen ’22 and his mother emigrated to the United States from Honduras in search of economic opportunities. Now, the Furman University Asian studies major wants to help young people in Honduras start businesses and spur the economy there.
A new program for Furman students, developed by The Robert and Margaret Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and in collaboration with VentureSouth, could help him do that.
Guillen is in the inaugural cohort of the Furman Angel Analyst Fellows, learning what it takes to be angel investors.
“The goal is to provide students with the skills, experience and network to accelerate their learnings in early-stage venture investment,” whether they want to pursue a career as an investor or raise capital for their own ventures, said Anthony Herrera, Furman’s chief innovation officer and executive director of The Hill Institute.
“We’re extremely excited. We’re thrilled” about the Furman Angel Analyst Fellowship, said Charlie Banks, a managing director of VentureSouth. Students will get hands-on experience working with the VentureSouth team, participating in meetings, learning the firm’s due diligence process, “seeing behind the curtain,” he said.
The group meets twice a week for eight weeks at Furman 101 in downtown Greenville, where they hear from entrepreneurs and business leaders, have facilitated discussions, go over case studies and exercises and receive mentoring. The last three weeks are spent on a due-diligence project, culminating in a presentation to VentureSouth. At the end of the program fellows have the chance to interview for two internship positions with the investment firm.
The first class includes students from every academic year, but future cohorts will be limited to sophomores and juniors, giving students an advantage when applying for competitive internships with venture capital, private equity and investment banking firms their junior and senior years, Herrera said.
Students from any major can apply, making the program unique and the first of its kind at a liberal arts and sciences university, Herrera said. The handful of similar programs are at larger universities, and are either exclusive to business majors or to graduate students.
Also unique is the opportunity for students to work with a premiere firm like VentureSouth, one of the top 10 angel investment firms in the country, Herrera said.
Banks said his firm has been impressed with Furman students who have interned there in recent years. He and Herrera talked about expanding opportunities and opening it up to non-business majors. They want Furman students to become part of a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Carolina and the Southeast that needs more talent.
“Furman students have talent and the willingness to learn a new skill,” Banks said.
“In the past, if a student wanted to get involved in venture capital, they had to go outside the Southeast,” Banks said. The fellowship is “good for our region and for South Carolina, to have home-grown talent in the venture space. That’s what’s needed to sustain the foundation we’re trying to build around capital.”
Guillen said he aspires to start an angel investing group in Honduras, and possibly in Mexico, where his stepfather is from. The countries, he said, “need investment into entrepreneurs to create new business and economic opportunities.”
He appreciates that the program was open to non-business majors, and says his background in humanities gives him a more global perspective on things.
“I had the opportunity to learn about the cultures, customs, traditions and languages of countries around the world, which is important for the next generation of leaders,” Guillen said.
Herrera said a liberal arts education is a natural fit for the angel analyst fellowship because of the emphasis on problem solving, analytical skills and communication, which are also key to early-stage investing.
“I’m excited to see Furman students of any major be exposed to the basics of how early-stage ventures launch,” said Les Knight ’76, a retired partner with Ernst and Young who serves as a mentor for the fellows. Being exposed to the investing process will help the fellows in their careers, either as investors or founders. And, it sets them up to intern at firms like VentureSouth.
The Furman Angel Analyst Fellows, and their majors, are: Nikita Arora ’24, accounting and computer science; Chase Clemens ’22, business administration; Justin Drago ’22, business administration; Oscar Guillen ’22, Asian studies; Jack Malo ’23, political science and Spanish; Mike Miller ’23, computer science; Jackson Phillips ’23 politics and international affairs; Jack Reiser ’24, accounting; Chris Rinker ’25, business administration; Sara Shadwick ’24, business administration and economics; and Spencer Tate ’24, economics.
For additional information contact The Hill Institute’s executive director Anthony Herrera at Anthony.Herrera@Furman.edu, and 864-294-2220.
Robert and Margaret Hill create Furman endowment see more
It’s easy to get Robert Hill ’83 talking fondly about his alma mater.
“It’s fun to talk about Furman,” says the retired executive and member of the Furman Board of Trustees. “I think it’s a really special place. It’s a great school with strong leadership.”
Hill and his wife, Margaret Hill ’83, have shown their dedication to their university in many ways through the years, including service as past chairs of the Richard Furman Society executive committee and past members of the Because Furman Matters Campaign executive committee. The Hill Atrium and Hill Courtyard of the Trone Student Center are named in their honor, as is a biogeochemistry lab in the Townes Center for Science. They also support the Partners Scholarship Program and the Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection.
And now they are supporting the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship with an endowment fund. To recognize that commitment, the institute will be known as The Robert and Margaret Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Anthony Herrera, Furman’s chief innovation officer and executive director of The Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The naming is fitting, says Anthony Herrera, Furman’s chief innovation officer and executive director of The Hill Institute, noting the Hills’ initial “seed” investment that prompted the institute’s founding.
“They were such a catalyst in getting the university to take the first step to launch this institute,” Herrera says. “They started the journey that brought me to campus to take this role on. Not only have they been supporters, they’ve been partners in building it step by step and brick by brick.”
The Hill Institute was launched in August 2018 with Herrera’s hiring. With the mission of developing leaders into entrepreneurially minded thinkers and doers, the institute has helped introduce the Furman Business Innovation Accelerator, the GVL Starts program, the Class E podcast and the Paladin Pitch competition.
These accomplishments, and the success of The Hill Institute as a whole, have their roots in The Furman Advantage, says Robert Hill.
“I think that really enables us to do some neat things as a university and invest in our student body appropriately,” he says. “That’s an important anchor – and I’m not sure we’d invest if we didn’t have a healthy strategy around The Furman Advantage and creating those experiences for students.”
The Hills’ endowment will allow the institute to continue its ongoing work and create more connections across campus, Herrera says.
“When you think about a domain that can connect chemistry and communication studies, or philosophy and business – that’s innovation and entrepreneurship,” he says. “That’s where the institute is so transformational. This will bring all the departments, all the disciplines, all of our divisions across campus together in a common ground. We’re just barely starting to scratch the surface.”
Herrera’s leadership, as well as that of Furman President Elizabeth Davis, is inspiring to the Hills, they say.
“The Hills have worked tirelessly to position the institute to have a continued, significant impact on the student experience and in the Greenville community, as well as in South Carolina and beyond,” said Furman University President Elizabeth Davis. “The Hills’ commitment will establish a significant foundational endowment for the institute that will help it to build on and expand its efforts. We are immensely grateful for their support.”
“When you’re making a gift to Furman, you’re investing behind people, too,” Robert Hill says.
As Furman alums and parents – their son, Marshall Hill, graduated in 2012 – “Furman has been good to us through the years,” Hill says.
“A little bit of this is giving back to people who gave to us when we were students there,” he says. “We were impacted by great professors, and we made great friends at Furman, and that’s been uplifting, too. It’s an important time to give back.”
Makes top list for fifth year in a row see more
For the fifth consecutive year, Furman University is one of the “Most Innovative Schools” among national liberal arts colleges and universities, according to the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” rankings released Sept. 13. Furman also was included in the top-50 among its peers for undergraduate teaching, first-year experience and undergraduate research.
Overall, Furman climbed six places to No. 46 among all “National Liberal Arts Colleges,” placing it again in the top quarter of all liberal arts and sciences universities. The top-ranked university in South Carolina, Furman ranks sixth in the Southeast in its category, behind the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland (6), Washington and Lee University in Virginia (11), Davidson College in North Carolina (13), the University of Richmond (22) and Berea College in Kentucky (30).
“Furman faculty and staff demonstrate every day their commitment to helping all of our students find their pathway through their four years at Furman by integrating curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular experiences,” said Elizabeth Davis, president of Furman University. “These rankings, and the recognition by university leaders across the country, reflect the value of a Furman education and our innovation in delivering it.”
Furman has been voted a “Most Innovative School” by its peers every year since launching The Furman Advantage in 2016, coming in at No. 32 this year. Furman was also recognized among its peer universities for “Best College for Veterans” (2) and “Undergraduate Teaching” (46), and among all universities for “Best First-Year Experience” (49) and “Undergraduate Research” (46). Furman also ranked No. 37 for faculty resources and No. 50 for financial resources for students.
The “most innovative,” “undergraduate teaching,” “first-year experience” and “undergraduate research” rankings are decided by university presidents, provosts and deans of admissions who are asked to rank the top schools that come to mind in the respective categories.
Also this year, Furman was included among “The Best 387 Colleges” in the country by The Princeton Review. The publication also ranked Furman No. 15 on its list of “schools for making an impact” in its “Best Value Colleges” guide.
In 2020, Furman was the top college or university in South Carolina in the Best Colleges 2021 rankings by The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education. Furman ranked No. 135 out of nearly 800 U.S. colleges or universities that made the list. The WSJ/THE College Ranking is designed to “put graduate success and student learning at its heart.”
For more information, contact the Furman News and Media Strategy office at 864-294-3107.
SCBIO takes aim at growing the presence of women in the life sciences industry see more
While COVID-19 brought the life sciences industry squarely into the world’s spotlight, the industry has been growing rapidly around the globe — and here in South Carolina — for quite some time. From gene editing and stem cell research to health data analytics and telemedicine, amazing advances in next generation pharmaceuticals and vaccines, medical devices, diagnostics, digital health, bio-agriculture and more are reshaping our world, while also saving and improving lives.
Life sciences in South Carolina are on a growth spurt accelerated by the pandemic. The number of firms in the industry has doubled since 2017, making it the fastest-growing industry sector in the state. The Moore School of Business estimated its annual economic impact at $12 billion and over 43,000 employees — even before COVID’s surge of growth.
To fully realize the opportunity that life sciences represent for South Carolina, the Board of Directors of SCBIO have placed a priority on increasing diversity and inclusion in the industry here at home — with action replacing perfunctory policies. Those efforts are bearing fruit.
As the official life sciences industry organization for South Carolina, SCBIO has implemented a range of commitments, actions, and programs to encourage advancement for individual women and minorities, cultivate the next generations of female leaders, and strengthen and deepen the bench of talented women workers and leaders in organizations statewide.
Among SCBIO’s numerous initiatives are:
Leading by Example – Besides my role as Interim CEO, women comprise some 25% of SCBIO’s board of directors today, which is led by a female Board Chairman, Lou Kennedy, CEO and Founder of Nephron Pharmaceuticals. The Board has also launched a new Life Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council to support leadership development of women and minorities. The 2021-2022 SCBIO Strategic Plan for SC Life Sciences has an entire section dedicated to encouraging expanded women and minority participation in the industry.
Relationship Building – Lt. Governor Pamela Evette, Chief External Affairs Officer for MUSC Caroline Brown, and Vikor Scientific’s Partner & Co-Founder Shea Harrelson are a few of many visible leaders actively encouraging young women to expand relationships across life sciences. This network of women leaders is deep and growing, consisting of female leaders in education, manufacturing, logistics, research, medicine, government, economic development and more who reach out to support each other’s development, share ideas, problem solve and encourage skill growth.
Supporting Career Choice for Young Women – Life science jobs are not just for M.D.s and Ph.Ds, but for technical college graduates, engineers, and biology and chemistry majors as well. With an average life sciences position paying $79,000 here, SCBIO is promoting the industry as a career path to students, guidance counselors and parents at the K-12 and two- and four-year college levels. It is also developing an industry-advocated curriculum for technical colleges covering industry prescribed manufacturing processes, safety and technical protocols, soft skills and more. A recent statewide Young Women in Life Sciences ZOOM drew over 500 high school attendees from dozens of schools across the state to learn about careers in life sciences.
Connecting Young Women – Via events and community outreach such as Virtual Meetups for women in the industry and a Women in Life Sciences Visit with our Lt. Governor, SCBIO is connecting women at all levels of life sciences organizations across the state to share information on career paths, leading teams, personal development, handling difficult conversations, encouraging innovation and more to help them connect and learn together — and encourage others they know to consider the industry as a career path.
Establishing New Partnerships – New partnerships such as serving as Presenting Sponsor of Furman University’s Women’s Leadership Institute and providing scholarships at the BMW-SYNNEX 2021 Women’s Executive Luncheon create new opportunities to have life sciences as a visible part of the discussion.
Now more than ever, women in life sciences are leading the way to the industry’s rapid growth and expansion in South Carolina… and around the world. Here at home, SCBIO is working to inspire women of all ages to choose, grow and thrive in this dynamic industry by relying on, inspiring and supporting each other to attain even greater levels of success.
The future is bright and getting even brighter as more women step up to lead the way to a brighter tomorrow.
Furman commitment to Greenville and South Carolina growing see more
Furman is expanding its downtown presence – and planning one of the school’s greatest investments in the Greenville community – with the addition of a 2,000-square-foot space on the ground floor of 101 N. Main St. in One City Plaza.
The storefront suite in the former Bank of America building next to Methodical Coffee is being designed as “an experiential learning environment,” said Anthony Herrera, Furman’s chief innovation officer and executive director of The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“This will be one of our most visible commitments to connect Furman’s main campus with the local community,” he said.
The One City Plaza location is the latest example of Furman’s growing presence and engagement with the community, said Liz Seman, chief of staff and liaison to Furman’s Board of Trustees.
“From the West End to Heritage Green, to our beautiful campus on Poinsett Highway, Furman is proud to be Greenville’s University,” said Seman. “We are excited to add the space at One City Plaza to our downtown footprint. Students, faculty, staff and alumni will now have the opportunity to engage with the Greenville community at Fluor Field, M. Judson Booksellers, the Upcountry History Museum and the Bon Secours Wellness Arena. All of these venues provide unique opportunities for collaboration and high-impact experiences, which are the hallmark of The Furman Advantage.”
A multipurpose area with flexible furniture, the space will be quickly convertible to host a wide array of programs, workshops and events, Herrera said. Select graduate and undergraduate courses, continuing education certificates, workshops, speaker series and networking events will be delivered throughout the week to develop leaders and “lifelong learners” throughout the city.
Along with the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Furman’s three other institutes – The Riley Institute, The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities and The Institute for Advancement of Community Health – will offer programming. Furman’s Center for Corporate and Professional Development and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, as well as the school’s academic, alumni relations and athletics departments, will also present events.
The facility, expected to open later this year or soon after the new year, can benefit both Furman and Greenville by encouraging students to ultimately get full-time positions and stay in the city, said Herrera.
“This space will connect our students and faculty more intentionally with the business and nonprofit community for a pipeline of talent for internships, full-time jobs, research and impactful collaborations,” he said. “It will further carry out Furman’s mission of delivering transformative experiences for lifelong learners. We want to expand our commitment to serving the Greenville community and ensuring Greenville continues to thrive.”
Another catalyst for the development is this fall’s launch of the GVL Starts program, an eight-week program for aspiring entrepreneurs to network and learn skills to develop their potential startups and small businesses, he said.
The ground floor space won’t be the only place to find Furman purple in the former Bank of America building. In December 2020, Furman University President Elizabeth Davis announced that the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will join the city of Greenville’s economic development team in locating offices in downtown Greenville with NEXT, an entrepreneurial-support organization that operates under the Greenville Chamber Foundation, on the third floor of 101 N. Main St.
Program to help aspiring entrepreneurs move from idea to action see more
In partnership with the City of Greenville, Greenville Local Development Corporation (GLDC), and the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is launching a new program this fall called GVL STARTS. The program is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs move from idea to action by connecting them with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and teaching them the skills they need to fund and grow their ventures.
GVL STARTS builds on the success of a “business and innovation boot camp” that the Institute launched for Furman students in 2018. After the students completed the boot camp, a select number received internship placements, funded by GLDC, with early-stage NEXT member companies.
“Engaging with the Greenville community is nothing new to Furman,” said Anthony Herrera, Furman University’s Chief Innovation Officer and the founding executive director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “GVL STARTS is one of the many new ways we are collaborating with community partners to grow a culture of innovation and position Greenville as a national hub for entrepreneurship.”
According to Bryan Davis, Managing Director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Program Director for GVL STARTS, while startups and small businesses are critical to a vibrant economy, over 70% of new businesses fail within five years due to problems that can be addressed with the right foundation.
“Fortunately, a community like Greenville, which is fueled by collaboration and driven by a can-do spirit, has the opportunity to flip the script in an inclusive and equitable fashion,” said Davis. “There is a critical mass of collaboration partners around the table supporting the GVL STARTS program, and ultimately, the aspiring entrepreneur or founder. To me, that is the magical element of this. It’s not just about the great training, it’s about the connections and experience you’ll have that will absolutely give you a leg up to be successful in Greenville, regardless of your background, race, gender, age, etc.”
The eight-week program, which will be offered twice a year, begins on August 17, and is limited to 25 participants. Sessions will be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Participants will have the opportunity to pitch their idea or new venture during the final week for a chance to win $5,000 to assist with initial startup costs and free desk space for one year in the heart of downtown, surrounded by other entrepreneurs, investors and support organizations.
According to Greenville City Manager John McDonough, GVL STARTS helps address the challenges facing every aspiring entrepreneur – the accessibility of training, connections and resources – and exemplifies the type of partnerships that Greenville is known for.
“Greenville is more than a vibrant place to visit and an affordable place to live. It’s a thriving community for entrepreneurs,” said McDonough. “We welcome, support and collaborate with innovators, and the GVL STARTS program powered by Furman will provide the educational workshops, coaching and networking they need to build confidence and ensure success.”
GVL STARTS is open to aspiring entrepreneurs from all demographics and business categories.
The deadline to apply is Friday, August 6 and the cost is $299. Need-based scholarships are available. Applications will be reviewed by an outside committee and the first group of participants will be announced on Wednesday, August 11.
The Institute offers a 30-minute virtual information session on GVL STARTS on Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m. Register for an information session. For all media inquiries regarding GVL Starts please contact Bryan Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Former Toyota executive to drive university’s innovation agenda see more
Furman University has taken another step to deeply engage its students and the greater Greenville community in innovation and entrepreneurship by naming Anthony Herrera the university’s first chief innovation officer, effective July 1.
In his new role, Herrera will create opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in entrepreneurial and innovative activities, build corporate and professional development certificates and drive the university’s innovation agenda.
He will also continue in his role as executive director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Furman I&E), which has built a strong foundation of relationships with public and private organizations and community leaders in Greenville, the Upstate and across South Carolina.
“Anthony has led the way in creating an innovation and entrepreneurial environment at Furman, both within the university and with state and local organizations,” said Furman University President Elizabeth Davis. “This new title recognizes the work that Anthony has already been doing — expanding and enhancing opportunities for students and helping our university work more innovatively with the community.”
Other universities across the country are creating chief innovation officer positions. The new roles reflect a convergence of factors happening in higher education, Herrera said.
“There is a need to deliver increased value and more opportunities for students, to be a contributor to communities in solving our greatest challenges, and to do this in ways that are financially sustainable,” he said.
For Furman, Herrera said, Greenville is becoming distinguished as an innovation and entrepreneurial hub among mid-size cities, “so the city’s putting intentional effort and resources toward this and the university can come alongside and be catalytic for greater impact. When the university and the city work together for common goals, everyone wins.”
As Greenville thrives, the opportunities for students include increased internship and job placements, and access to expert speakers and mentors from the business and non-profit sectors. Meanwhile, Furman continues to be a source of talent for the local area.
Herrera also will lead an effort to increase the offering of corporate and professional development programs and non-degree certificate programs, such the Women’s Leadership Institute, Design Thinking and Adaptive Leadership.
Furman I&E, which was named an Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center in 2020 by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers, has already established relationships with area innovation organizations. In December 2020, Furman I&E joined the City of Greenville’s economic development team, NEXT and VentureSouth, to co-locate in offices in downtown. It also will launch this fall a program called GVL Starts, an eight-week experience that teaches community members how to launch a successful venture and provides access to coaching, mentoring and start-up grants needed to make it happen. The Greenville Local Development Corporation, the South Carolina Department of Commerce, the City of Greenville and Venture South are all partners in the program.
“This is an exciting opportunity to be a part of a leading liberal arts and sciences university in a city that is being recognized on a national and global level, and at a time that is such a pivotal moment in higher education,” Herrera said. “Furman has all the right ingredients to be a national leader in the space of innovation and entrepreneurship and an integral partner to the city and Upstate’s entrepreneurial and innovation community.”
Before coming to Furman in 2018, Herrera spent more than 18 years in talent management and development roles for global organizations, including as the former leader for Toyota Motor North America’s executive succession and leadership development team. Prior to Toyota, Herrera served as the executive director at SMU Cox School of Business and launched a nationally recognized center of excellence assisting Fortune 1,000 and non-profits recruit, retain and develop diverse leaders. Herrera earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from the SMU Cox School of Business.