KEARNEY – A new program at the University of Nebraska at Kearney will give aspiring entrepreneurs a leg up in the business world.
UNK’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development is launching a living-learning community next fall to connect innovative, forward-thinking students and allow them to collaborate in settings outside the classroom.
The goal of the program is to foster creative thinking, introduce students to the local business community and get them thinking about starting their own businesses earlier in their UNK careers.
“When you have one person looking outside the box, that’s great. But when you have 12 people looking outside the box, that’s when sparks fly and the magic happens,” said Lisa Tschauner, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development.
The new living-learning community has space for up to 16 freshmen and sophomores who will be introduced to a range of entrepreneurial programs while taking some classes together, including a recently developed entrepreneurship around the world course.
Participants will live together in a dedicated wing inside the Centennial Tower West residence hall during their freshman year, join the Enactus student-led entrepreneurship organization and be teamed with mentors from the local business community. Other opportunities include business tours, peer mentorship and additional faculty support.
Aliese Hoffman with the Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development said establishing a program for like-minded students gives them a chance to share ideas and develop relationships, which could lead to partnerships on business startups.
“I think they’ll find a lot of benefit and comfort,” she said.
UNK already offers an entrepreneurship minor, but those courses are at the junior and senior levels. The living-learning community will expose students to UNK’s entrepreneurship program at an earlier stage and allow them to start developing their own business plans.
“We wanted to really capture these innovative, creative students when they’re freshmen and sophomores so we have more time with them and they can be introduced to some of the resources we have in the Center for Entrepreneurship earlier than their last year in college,” Tschauner said.
UNK’s entrepreneurship living-learning community is modeled after a similar program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha that’s entering its third year.
“They’ve seen a lot of success with it,” Hoffman said.
The UNK Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development is also working with other living-learning communities on campus, as well as the residence life office, to get the project off the ground.
UNK has several living-learning communities, including those for Thompson Scholars, the Honors Program, Kearney Health Opportunities Program (KHOP), Kearney Bound Scholars, gender inclusivity and students from across the globe.
The entrepreneurship living-learning community, which is open to students in any major, will be renamed by the inaugural group of participants. Students can also pitch their own ideas for business tours and other activities.
“They get to kind of create it themselves,” said Tschauner.
Ultimately, Tschauner and Hoffman hope the new program brings more students to UNK and helps promote economic development in rural Nebraska.
“There’s so much opportunity in this state for small business development,” Tschauner said.
HOW TO APPLY
Students interested in joining the entrepreneurship living-learning community can apply at unk.edu/ellc. Eight scholarships are available through the same application. The application deadline is April 13.
Selection will be based on a student’s experience, program interview, involvement and indicators of innovation and critical thinking.