WCU to offer state’s first undergraduate degree program in entrepreneurship

CULLOWHEE — Western Carolina University will offer the first bachelor’s degree program in entrepreneurship in North Carolina starting in fall 2001 to prepare graduates to successfully launch and manage their own business ventures, especially in the western part of the state.

Establishment of the new program was approved during a recent meeting of The University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

“The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that only 40 percent of business ventures survive through the first five years, largely due to poor preparation of the owners. This program is designed to address the need for better preparation,” said Ron Shiffler, dean of Western’s College of Business, where the bachelor of science in business administration major in entrepreneurship will be housed.

“In addition to helping prepare students to succeed at their own business ventures, we also want to prepare graduates to function effectively in management roles in the smaller, innovative entrepreneurial firms that have emerged as a result of global competition,” Shiffler said.

Between 1988 and 1993, companies with fewer than 500 employees created 1.8 million new jobs, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. During that same period, companies with more than 500 employees created 100,000 new jobs, the agency reported.

“More and more, the employers of today are aggressively searching for entrepreneurial managers who can help them grow and expand,” Shiffler said. “We know from what’s happening nationally and from our own advisory board of regional entrepreneurs that there is a strong interest in graduates who come out of interdisciplinary programs armed with the skills required to be innovative and proactive. We think this new program will meet that need.”

Western’s College of Business has been studying demand for the proposed program since 1998 through a concentration in entrepreneurship offered as part of its economics major. The results of the study indicated that the business college could absorb the proposed program with without additional faculty and staff resources, and with no additional state funds.

Enrollment projections call for 30 majors in the program’s first year (2001-02), increasing to 36 in 2002-03 and 43 in 2003-04 before reaching a steady-state enrollment of 52 students in 2004-05.

Currently, no other bachelor of science degree programs in entrepreneurship are offered within the public or private institutions of higher education in North Carolina. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte offers a concentration in the management major, and UNC-Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University offer concentrations in their master’s degree programs in business administration.