For the first time ever, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been ranked among the top 25 programs nationally in entrepreneurship education. In the fifth annual survey of over 900 schools released by Entrepreneur magazine and The Princeton Review this fall, Illinois came in 16th among undergraduate programs and 21st among graduate programs.
The national rankings have attracted the attention and praise of the campus’ highest administrators. “I could not be more pleased with these new rankings,” says Richard Herman, Chancellor of the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus. “The model of entrepreneurship education is changing rapidly, and Illinois is leading the way. Our direction is toward a more cross-disciplinary approach, one that utilizes extraordinary cooperation across our entire campus. We are creating a new standard that is becoming the envy of universities nationwide.”
Entrepreneur magazine’s criteria for evaluation included academic requirements, student and faculty initiatives, and outside-the-classroom support and experiences. Those involved with responding to the Princeton Review survey say the work that went into this year’s results reflect the cross-campus collaboration in entrepreneurship education that makes the university’s programs so successful.
Dr. Tony Mendes, the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership’s Executive Director, emphasized the impact of the Academy’s cross-campus mission on each of these criteria, through its support for interdisciplinary entrepreneurship course development, co-curricular programs, and innovative research.
“We know that a high percentage of our students will go on to become entrepreneurs or will be required to be ‘entrepreneurial’ in their careers,” Mendes said. “Faculty teaching entrepreneurship in multiple disciplines here offer courses unlike those taught on any campus in the U.S. I believe that is one of the reasons we are being recognized as one of the nation’s best.”
In fact, in just three years the Faculty Fellows program has grown tremendously to enhance the educational experience of hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students across the Illinois campus. In total, the Academy has received 81 proposals, and funded 40 new or modified courses. “Our fellows allow students to express their innovative entrepreneurial ideas and grow as leaders,” said Mendes. “These students dream big and their careers will be filled with opportunities to help change the world. What better entrepreneurial contribution can we make, than investing in a bright future.”
The National Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers (NCEC) has also recognized the contributions of the Academy, at its annual conference in Syracuse, New York in October.
Dr. Donald F. Kuratko, The Jack M. Gill Chair of Entrepreneurship at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University – Bloomington; and the Executive Director of the National Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers, said of this honor. “The 2007 award for ‘Exceptional Activities in Entrepreneurship across Disciplines’ presented by the National Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers (NCEC) to the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) was a clear recognition of the outstanding leadership of Dr. Tony Mendes and his entire team in establishing entrepreneurial activities throughout the entire university campus. They stand as a role model for other universities to emulate across the globe.”
“The crux of the Academy’s submission touted its Faculty Fellows program, and corresponding course development, including that for a proposed undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship,” stated Academy Associate Director, Laura Hollis. “The University of Illinois is one of over 150 institutions that are members of NCEC. The result of this award is even greater recognition among the University’s peer institutions across the nation for the innovative programs in entrepreneurship being developed here.”
Illinois’ Entrepreneurship was also honored by Fortune Small Business and CNNMoney.com, who named the University of Illinois as one of America’s Best Colleges for Entrepreneurs, across three categories. In the article, Fortune recognized the campus-wide impact of the $4.5M Kauffman grant that founded the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership in 2003. As a result, Illinois hit the ground running and “it doubled the amount of cross-disciplinary entrepreneurship courses to more than 75, spanning 32 departments,” stated Fortune.
The article also recognized the Hoeft Technology & Management Program in the top undergraduate program ranking. The T&M program offers outstanding undergraduate students from the business and engineering colleges the unique chance to explore entrepreneurial opportunities in a wide range of settings across curriculum, corporate projects, and experiential learning.
The Executive MBA program was also honored for having entrepreneurial executive education impact, as students “meet in downtown Chicago every other weekend, work together through general-management courses and study such entrepreneurial topics as commercializing technology and protecting intellectual property.”
The Academy is proud of the acclaim that Illinois’ entrepreneurship has received across the nation and on our campus. Students, faculty, and our community continue to be inspired by new entrepreneurial ways of thinking and being leaders across all disciplines. We look forward to a new year filled with even more creative ways for everyone to contribute to entrepreneurial initiatives.