As the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership has built and expanded its reputation on the Urbana-Champaign campus, more and more faculty have learned about the opportunities to develop courses through the Academy’s Fellows program. Less well-known, but perhaps even more significant within the context of the University of Illinois, are the programs that the Academy has in place to fund research in entrepreneurship.
“Until relatively recently, the excellent scholarship in entrepreneurship was confined largely to business management and strategy, and related disciplines, and sometimes engineering,” explained Academy Director of Information and Research Services Cindy Kehoe. “Although there were certainly aspects of entrepreneurship that were being explored outside of business or engineering, these tended to be diffused and very difficult to identify or access. Furthermore, the entrepreneurship content in that research tended to be viewed within the context of that discipline – sociology, for example, or history – and not entrepreneurship, per se.”
“Strengthening the field of entrepreneurship as a scholarly discipline in its own right was one key goal of the original proposal to the Kauffman Foundation,” Kehoe continued. “To us, this meant funding scholars both within and outside of the historic areas of entrepreneurship research.”
The Academy funds scholarly research in entrepreneurship, conducted by faculty and academic professionals, through the Scholars in Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SCIE) initiative. Initially this endeavor was managed through the Campus Research Board, beginning in spring 2006. The Academy, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, and the University of Illinois Extension each contributed funds. Beginning in fall 2007, however, the initiative has been managed by the Academy, in partnership with Extension.
According to Kehoe, although the awards provide a maximum of $15,000, this amount is often used as “seed” money, or serves to leverage other funds available to the faculty applicant, thus extending the impact of the Academy’s grants.
Over a two-year period, awards have been given through the SCIE fund to faculty in six colleges and 13 departments, including Business Administration, Speech Communication, Political Science, Animal Sciences, History, Curriculum and Instruction, Geography and Industrial Design.
The Academy also has grants available for graduate students, entitled the Graduate Scholars in Entrepreneurship program.
“The Graduate Scholars initiative allows students from many fields to explore how entrepreneurship may be studied, using the typical research frameworks and methodologies of their disciplines,” Kehoe said. “Some students choose to incorporate entrepreneurship into their research and teaching portfolio in their future roles as faculty. Others may request support to develop curriculum materials such as case studies for faculty teaching entrepreneurship courses. All the students develop a greater appreciation for entrepreneurship as a discipline,” she concluded.
Grants in this program are for a maximum of $5000, and students have a great deal of leeway in how they choose to spend the grant. The relatively few restrictions concerning what kinds of expenses can be included in the budget (beyond the basic university rules) allow students to be creative in their research approach. As with the faculty grants, awards are often matched with other funds.
“Prospective applicants need to know that the benefits of these grants often extend beyond the term of the grant itself,” Kehoe noted. “Some of our Graduate Scholars have published their work in scholarly journals, or have presented at conferences, and won awards, including dissertation fellowships and a best case award from USASBE. For one student, the work led to a post-doctoral position with Yahoo!’s research division.”
Academy Executive Director Tony Mendes reiterated the importance of the grants supporting entrepreneurship research to the Academy’s overarching mission.
“Our goal from the beginning was to strengthen entrepreneurship as an academic discipline,” he said. “The University of Illinois enjoys a well-deserved reputation as among the top research institutions in the world. So it is an unprecedented opportunity for the Academy to be able to provide support to the faculty on this campus who wish to incorporate – or expand – a focus on entrepreneurship within their research.”
Faculty or graduate students interested in more information about the Academy’s grant programs and other support for research in entrepreneurship should contact Dr. Kehoe at email@example.com.