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Entrepreneurship program named among top three in nation
This is the first year the honor has gone to a college the size of Lake Forest College. The honor comes from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE), which is the largest independent, professional, academic organization in the world dedicated to advancing the discipline of entrepreneurship. Membership includes more than 1,000 individuals from universities, colleges, for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, and the public sector. The competition is open to all colleges and universities.
“We were very proud to be recognized by USASBE as one of the best emerging entrepreneurship programs in the nation,” said Professor Rob Lemke, who has been the faculty chair of the program since its inception. “We take great satisfaction in having assembled a truly immersive, robust curriculum that is accessible to all students. If not unique, this is certainly very rare programming at a liberal arts college.”
The College’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program began in 2014, with the first class of minors—14 students—graduating in May 2015. Since then, the program has more than doubled to become the largest minor at the College. The Class of 2017 had 31 graduates who minored in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and more than 40 students are expected to graduate with the minor in the Class of 2018.
A distinguishing feature of the program is its interdisciplinary design. Students in the program span all academic divisions and almost all majors, including communication, finance, international relations, politics, religion, Spanish, and theater. The College has devoted two full-time faculty to the teaching of entrepreneurship classes, including Innovation, Franchising, and Small Business Development; Entrepreneurial Ventures; Small Business Consulting; Entrepreneurial Marketing; Social Entrepreneurship; and Advertising, Media, and Digital Marketing.
The College has also taken steps to encourage students to be engaged in entrepreneurial activities outside the classroom. For the past two years, students have participated in an elevator pitch competition with the top four local winners advancing to nationals at the Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization’s annual conference, and in Pitch It!, the College’s entrepreneur competition that awards $10,000 in prize money to the winning business ideas. Students are also connected with the entrepreneurship scene in Chicago and on the North Shore.
Evelyn Johnson ’18 has found the program to be a good fit with her finance major and double minor in Mandarin and entrepreneurship and innovation. “Entrepreneurship has helped me develop strategic leadership skills, empathy, and the ability to think out of the box,” she said. “It has proven to be an asset in my corporate internship, where I work as a financial planning analyst, and has given me numerous opportunities to improve my analytical and presentation skills.”
As one of the top winners in the 2017 Pitch It! competition, Johnson found the entire experience to be invaluable to her professional growth. “The hard work and rigor that goes on behind the scenes taught me every aspect of starting and running a business,” she said.