Baylor, Ball State to Share Research

Feb. 19, 1999

by Alan Hunt

Back in the old days, faculty colleagues asked Ball State's Dr. Don Kuratko if he would be facing a class of prisoners or high school dropouts when he was hired to teach entrepreneurship.

"I was a little embarrassed at first," he recalls during a recent talk at Baylor. "That's how many people really did view the field of entrepreneurship as it was beginning to start."

But what a difference a few years can make. Today, more than a decade later, Kuratko directs an award-winning entrepreneurship program at Ball State University in Indiana. His colleague, Dr. Duane Ireland, directs a similar top-ranked entrepreneurship program at Baylor's Hankamer School of Business.

Both believe that entrepreneurship gained the credibility it enjoys today through collaboration among those who teach the subject. And if you take that a step further, they say, there should be collaborative efforts between the institutions they represent.

That's why Kuratko and Ireland are discussing the possibilities of a "melding" between their entrepreneurship programs-the sharing of expertise and research-to create what could be one of the first collaborative entrepreneurship ventures of its kind among schools in the nation. Eventually, they predict, the centers could even exchange students and faculty. The discussions about these possibilities began in earnest about one year ago, although Ireland and Kuratko have known each other for many years. The breadth and depth of possibilities took on new life during Ireland's visit to Ball State University as the George and Frances Ball 21st Century Leadership Scholar and Kuratko's visit to Baylor University as the Joseph F. Schoen Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship.

The benefits of a melding of parts of Baylor's and Ball State's entrepreneurship programs would be enormous, they say, both for academia and for the business world. "This will provide some real positive potential, both in terms of research and in the dissemination of knowledge about entrepreneurship," Kuratko says, explaining that the centers' combined expertise could readily assist firms who are seeking entrepreneurial change.

"Many in the corporate world are dying to know how they are going to be innovative. They run into roadblocks and don't know where to go next. They get stymied."

Both Ireland and Kuratko say the respective deans of their business schools (Baylor's Dr. Terry Maness and Ball State's Dr. Neil Palomba) recognize the power of collaboration and have heartily endorsed the idea. "For our part, both Don and I are very interested in adding value to our stakeholders-our students, faculty and colleagues throughout the profession and we feel that this is a great way to do that," says Ireland. "This could evolve as a very powerful area of research and activity and would act as a conduit to other experts in the field of entrepreneurship."

Kuratko says Ball State's entrepreneurship program has a reputation as a "spine sweating" experience among students, with about 22 percent of them failing the course each year. One magazine even dubbed him "Dr. Pain" because of the demanding pass-fail methods he employs. Kuratko, describing the program as "a real maturing experience," says one year the failure rate actually reached about 50 percent. "One father called me every vulgar name I had ever heard," he recalls.

Ireland directs Baylor's entrepreneurship studies program, which offers a major in entrepreneurship to undergraduate students while graduate students can complete a concentration in entrepreneurship. Baylor was one of the first schools in the nation to launch an entrepreneurship center in 1978.

Both schools pride themselves on courses that offer the entrepreneurial skills needed to establish and operate a successful venture. Additionally, students participate in various "outreach" activities that allow them to learn while assisting local business owners and entrepreneurs in the areas of management, financial planning, and marketing, among others. Through interactive television, Ball State also offers an MBA in entrepreneurship that is broadcast to more than 70 corporate locations.

Kuratko and Ireland avidly describe entrepreneurship as the motivating factor behind America's robust economy. "You can talk about big business all you want," says Kuratko, "but the real fabric can be found in all the small entrepreneurial firms. It's what makes everything happen. I really believe that."

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