Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has been recognized along with the likes of Vanderbilt University, Dartmouth College and Brown University as an Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers.
The consortium is a group of 250 universities, according to a news release. Other 2020 recipients of the title, awarded to centers for early success, stakeholder engagement and innovative solutions within five years of launching, included Boston University, Eastern Washington University and Smith College.
“This recognition is a testament to Furman’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship and the unparalleled support by the campus community, alumni, parents, community members, administration and board of trustees,” Anthony Herrera, executive director of Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said in the release. “In just two short years, we have built a globally recognized institute and paved a way for Furman to lead nationally among liberal arts and sciences universities in the space of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Herrera said faculty-student engagement across disciplines, strong community ties and alumni-parent support sets Furman’s center apart and keeps it sustainable.
“This award signals that a liberal arts and sciences education can be a catalyst for innovation, that students who come to Furman can have a profoundly impactful experience as innovators and entrepreneurs regardless of their choice of major,” Elizabeth Davis, Furman’s president, said in the release. “We are grateful that the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers recognized Furman’s role in creating an ecosystem of entrepreneurship for our students, faculty and the community.”
The Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship program originally evolved from the school’s The Furman Advantage community-engagement and experiential education program in 2018 after Herrera joined the staff, according to the release. Its pitch program brought 80 student competitors to the stage, in front of an audience of 530 spectators in the final round alone, adding up to the highest number of student-pitch attendees in the state’s history. About $30,000 in startup grants were awarded during the event.
Last summer, a Summer Business and Innovation virtual boot camp also gave 42 students from 10 third-level institutions across the region the opportunity to learn the ropes of entrepreneurship and lead to 10 student internships funded by the city of Greenville. High school students also got a chance to step into the global startup community through a virtual academy and capstone project. Teens from 11 states and 11 countries pitched a venture in either innovation and entrepreneurship, sustainability or community health.
Other community partners with the center’s virtual workshops, “Leading in a Time of Crisis” podcasts and events include the city of Greenville, SCBio, Upstate SC Alliance, Greenville Area Development Corp., NEXT, 6AM, VentureSouth, Build Carolina and Village Launch.
“The heart of innovation and entrepreneurship is creativity, in identifying opportunities and solving problems,” Kem Wilson III, a Furman trustee, the principal of Kemmons Wilson Companies and a supporter of Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said in the release. “The entrepreneurial experience Furman students can experience will benefit them regardless of their career path.”