Western authorized to offer master’s degree program in entrepreneurship

CULLOWHEE – Less than three years after being authorized to offer North Carolina’s first undergraduate degree program in entrepreneurship, Western Carolina University has been given the green light for a new master’s degree program in the fast-growing field.

Approval of the new program came during February’s meeting of The University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

“The program is designed to address a critical need in Western North Carolina for sustainable economic development through successful small business start-ups,” said Richard Collings, WCU’s vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Entrepreneurship is disproportionately important in the western region of North Carolina and, in fact, throughout the nation because it forms the backbone of the economy and is the wellspring for the vast majority of jobs.”

Western’s master’s degree program will develop students’ entrepreneurial abilities, one of the most frequently cited requirements for a successful career in business and for a healthy and robust economy, Collings said.

The program is expected to positively impact the economic development of WNC by providing graduates, including many who grew up in the region, who will establish and grow businesses in the mountains, he said. In addition, some graduates will go to work for existing small businesses, bringing new expertise to support the continued growth of those enterprises.

The graduate-level degree in entrepreneurship is a “natural outgrowth” of Western’s undergraduate major in that discipline, which has quickly become the fastest-growing bachelor’s degree program in the College of Business, said Leroy Kauffman, interim dean of the college.

“The need for entrepreneurial skills and insight is cited by experts in business as crucial for American companies to compete in the increasingly global economy,” Kauffman said. “Companies of all shapes and sizes need graduates who will be able to lead their firms through an increasingly turbulent and competitive environment.”

Kauffman referred to a U.S. Small Business Administration study stating that, between 1988 and 1993, companies with fewer than 500 employees created 1.8 million new jobs, while companies with more than 500 employees created only 100,000 new jobs.

The agency also estimates that only 40 percent of new business ventures survive through the first five years, largely due to a lack of preparation by the entrepreneurs. Programs such as Western’s are designed to help provide those skills, Kauffman said.

Western’s master’s program in entrepreneurship, the only program of its type offered in the state, is expected to begin enrolling students for the fall 2003 semester. It is a 30 semester-hour cohort-based program taught primarily in classroom settings and augmented with Web-based components. The program will be led Jim and JoAnn Carland, nationally known for their work in the field of entrepreneurial studies.

For more information about the new master’s degree in entrepreneurship or other graduate study programs, contact Western’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies at (828) 227-7398 or (800) 369-9854.