Lessons in LeadershipGAMBIER, Ohio (August 5, 2008) A liberal arts education can be an incubator for entrepreneurs.
Kenyon students will start with lessons in leadership this year, take advantage of increasing internship opportunities, and move on to build fledgling businesses with the help of a grant from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation.
The foundation has awarded a three-year grant of $246,600 to Kenyon to create the Burton D. Morgan Emerging Leadership Program. The College will provide matching money to fund the pilot program at $300,000.
In the same way that a liberal arts education creates a framework for learning, this program will create a framework for leadership skills, said Brent Turner, Kenyon director of student activities. "This is more about creativity," he said. "This will help students find their passions and help them find their strengths. We want to focus on, 'What are going to do about it now?' "
Ted Rice of Mount Vernon, Ohio, has been selected as the program director. He was a professional photographer for twenty-eight years and ran his own commercial photography business for twenty-one years. He is the president of the board of directors of the Heritage Centre Association of Mount Vernon, an agency that promotes business development and attractions in downtown Mount Vernon. Rice earned a master's degree in business administration at Ohio University and a bachelor's degree in English from Ohio State University.
Rice experienced both sides of the classroom during the last school year. He taught a photography course at Kenyon as a visiting instructor of art and enrolled in a psychology course.
"This is really a neat program," Rice said. "The leadership skills we're teaching will help people in their lives at Kenyon as well as in their lives after Kenyon." The critical thinking, scientific method, and self expression associated with the liberal arts are essential in business careers, he added.
All members of the incoming, first-year class will start with skills and aptitude testing at the Career Development Center and take part in an orientation to career services. An emerging-leaders training retreat for about thirty students will take place in the fall. Team-building, critical-thinking and negotiating skills will be sharpened. Four business-development grants of $500 will be awarded at the end of the first year, to be used during the sophomore year to help shape business models.
A Kenyon Entrepreneurship Council will be formed to judge grant applications. The council will include Kenyon alumni who have returned to campus to speak through the Burton D. Morgan Lectureships on Entrepreneurship. Venture-capital grants of $5,000 will be awarded to two students to be used during their junior and senior years to put plans into action.
Students can start a small business at Kenyon or collaborate with a Knox County business. As an example of Kenyon initiative, students have previously started a student-run laundry service and Kenyon Coach, an airport-shuttle service. Social enterprises, typically founded to correct social and environmental problems and sometimes non-profit in nature, are expected to appeal to some young entrepreneurs.
"I don't bring any sort of preconceived ideas about what these plans can be," Rice said. "To me, the really exciting part is working with amazing and smart people and helping them shape up and pursue these dreams."
Another aspect of the program will be a semester-long course developed by the Department of Sociology on the role of entrepreneurship in society.
John Macionis, author, professor of sociology and Prentice Hall Distinguished Scholar, is expected to play a role in the program as it evolves. "I think everyone agrees that Kenyon has a responsibility to help develop tomorrow's leaders," he said. "The Morgan program adds a new dimension to those efforts."
Developing business leadership skills can be part of the role of a liberal arts college, he said. "We should try to prepare people for leadership in business, professional life, politics, and other areas," Macionis said. "The Morgan program will develop both entrepreneurship and leadership skills, but always with a Kenyon character."
The Burton D. Morgan Foundation, based in Hudson, Ohio, is dedicated to encouraging free enterprise.
Kenyon is a distinguished liberal arts college founded in 1824. The Gambier campus is home to a diverse group of 1,600 students. The challenging curriculum embraces the traditional humanities, arts and sciences, interdisciplinary program and opportunities for foreign study.