MTSU’s Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship program has been recognized by the Small Business Institute as the 2022 “Showcase Award” winner, signifying the top entrepreneurship program of the year.
Headquartered in Clinton, Mississippi, the Small Business Institute has a mission “to be the premier provider of professional development for those engaged in experiential student team consulting and related entrepreneurship education, research and activities,” according to its website.
MTSU management professor Joshua Aaron, Pam Wright Chair of Entrepreneurship in the Jennings A. Jones College of Business, accepted the award at the annual SBI national conference in Charleston, South Carolina, in late February.
Aaron said that he believes a key factor in MTSU’s program being honored was the eye-popping 38% growth of the program in 2021 to roughly 150 majors, a level of growth not found among the roughly 30 peer institutions are SBI members.
Jones College of Business students who major in Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship within the Department of Management can earn a Bachelor of Business Administration upon successful completion of program requirements.
“I think COVID gave people a chance to pause and think, ‘What am I going to do?’, and get the courage to say, ‘I’m going to do it myself; I’m going to be my own boss,’” Aaron said when asked about the reason for the surge in program enrollment.
He also thinks the program name change from “entrepreneurship” to “business innovation and entrepreneurship” piqued more interest and perhaps caused prospective students and parents to think about the program with a wider lens.
“I think that resonated with a lot of parents. I heard that from parents last year when they asked why we changed the name,” he said. “I told them that we are going to teach your student to be an entrepreneur if that’s what they want to do. But if they get through the program and decide they don’t want to do that, now they have a degree with ‘business innovation’ in the title that has a broad appeal to prospective employers.”
In highlighting the benefits of MTSU’s program, Aaron pointed to opportunities such as the annual Business Plan Competition — which has doubled its prize money in recent years and had a record number of submissions this year — with helping attract more students to the major, and a growing list of program donors also bolstering the program.
Because of the growing quality of student proposals for the Business Plan Competition, the event has evolved into a “Shark Tank”-type environment, Aaron said, a reference to the popular syndicated reality TV program where wealthy investors listen to business pitches from entrepreneurs before deciding whether to invest in their company. Some of the volunteer judges for MTSU competition have expressed similar investment interest after hearing some of the impressive student proposals, he added.
Meanwhile, Aaron said the Small Business Institute provides him a valuable opportunity to network with peers at the other participating universities and exchange ideas, while students benefit from SBI programs and resources that help them pursue experiential learning projects and network with student peers from other institutions.
Aaron said a colleague nominated MTSU’s program for the award, and he provided supporting documentation to the institute for consideration. The award was announced and presented by professor Whitney Peake, Small Business Institute director at Western Kentucky University.
MTSU’s program has gained other attention as well. University Headquarters (HQ), an independent online resource for prospective higher education students, ranked MTSU 20th nationwide in its Top 100 listing of the Most Affordable Entrepreneurship Colleges for 2021. Among key factors considered in forming the ranking were accreditation, tuition, availability of online classes, and overall educational statistics such as retention and graduation rates.
Chaired by professor Jill Austin, MTSU’s Department of Management offers courses in human resource management, supply chain management, not-for-profit management, business administration, business innovation and entrepreneurship, and leadership.
The department also offers minors in management, entrepreneurship, leadership studies, not-for-profit management, and business administration. Graduate students in the Master of Science in Management program may choose from concentrations in organizational leadership or supply chain management.
Graduate students in the Master of Business Administration program may choose from several elective courses including human resources management and supply chain management.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 615-898-2736.
— Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)