Ratcliffe Gift Establishes Entrepreneurship Fellows Program
What does it take to start your own business? And once it’s up and running, what does it take to make it grow?
Entrepreneurs of all kinds face these and other tough questions every day. Now, the University of Baltimore Merrick School of Business, with a gift from the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation, is supporting these passionate self-starters through the school’s new Entrepreneurship Fellows Program—a rigorous academic and experiential learning opportunity that promises to develop the next generation of business leaders by blending hands-on, real-world experiences with solid academic work in entrepreneurship.
The foundation’s $550,000 gift bolsters curriculum development and provides scholarships for program participants. Beginning next fall, the donation will fund its first cadre of fellows, a carefully selected group of juniors who will commit to two years of course work, specialized instruction and direct exposure to successful entrepreneurs. During this period of immersion, they will work with Maryland-based “gazelles”—expert entrepreneurs who have built young, fast-growing companies—to learn about business operations from concept to everyday problems. Then, students will launch their own for-profit businesses to complete the program.
“It’s a real evolution of our entrepreneurship model,” says Darlene Brannigan Smith, B.S. ’78, M.B.A. ’80, dean of the School of Business. “We are focused on building an entrepreneurship curriculum that launches the next generation of gazelles. Though our current teaching methods in this area are quite strong, we want to enhance them by infusing practical experience from successful serial entrepreneurs. There’s nothing like getting out there and actually doing it, especially when experts are guiding you along the way.”
“If I were a successful entrepreneur, I would be excited to be involved in this new vision for entrepreneurship,” Smith says. “It means you’re a believer in the power of the self-starter, and you’re sharing your insights and experiences with the next generation of entrepreneurs.
“We’re going beyond business-idea generation to creating and launching successful student-led ventures,” she adds. “It’s going to be a Merrick [School of Business] calling card and a leading example of how entrepreneurship can be applied to business teaching in the 21st century.”