It didn’t take long for Stephanie Kuharik, a freshman with an interest in event planning, to be paired with a mentor who’s “arguably the premier event planner in Washington, D.C.”
That assessment of Bowling Green graduate David Hainline is by Dr. Brent Nicholson, director of BizX, the new program that brought Hainline and Kuharik together.
BizX is a BGSU College of Business Administration initiative to foster entrepreneurial thinking and leadership in students. The program is working to develop the talents of its first 27 freshman enrollees through a combination of the classroom, co-curricular activities and mentorship.
Each of the students has been assigned a mentor, most of whom are Bowling Green alumni, noted Nicholson, who is also associate dean of undergraduate programs in the business college. “They’ve all got that link to someone who’s out in the business world’’ and will communicate with the students throughout their college careers, he added.
Dr. Rodney Rogers, dean of business administration, and Kristen Krebs, assistant to the dean for special projects, solicited prospective mentors for the program. An effort was then made to partner students with mentors “where we could find somebody who could match the interest of the student,” said Nicholson, citing the pairing of Hainline and Kuharik.
Program gets high marks
Hainline said he was pleased to be asked to be a mentor. “I love helping students,” and those in BizX are “the brightest of the brightest,” said the 1983 BGSU graduate and current president of CSI-Capitol Services Inc., an award-winning, special-event and meeting planning company. He and Kuharik corresponded by email every three or four weeks before meeting for the first time when he came to Bowling Green in February.
“It’s ended up being absolutely amazing,” according to Kuharik, who didn’t reply to an initial email about BizX before responding to a follow-up message. Having a personal relationship with someone in business represents “a great networking opportunity,” added the marketing major from St. George, Ontario. The opportunity also extends to getting Hainline’s input on what classes to take and having the chance to meet Rogers, the college dean, on her first weekend as a BGSU freshman. “That’s pretty cool,” she said.
Kuharik is part of an inaugural BizX cohort whose members were chosen for more than their high school grades and college entrance exam scores.
“There’s a little bit of a semblance of an honors program, but it’s not an honors program,” said Nicholson of BizX, an idea hatched when Rogers was in California visiting BGSU alumnus Bill Dallas, of Dallas Capital and co-founder of Fox Sports Grill. Dallas, along with his former neighbor, Olympic gold-medal figure skater and Bowling Green native Scott Hamilton, provided seed money to establish BGSU’s Dallas-Hamilton Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
“We tried to take a holistic approach to the admissions,” Nicholson pointed out, saying that extracurricular activities and three required short essays were among the considerations as well. Organizers also sought, “as a program for entrepreneurs, a student who is self-motivated, eager to learn, eager to try things and willing to work hard,” he said.
The group members, all business majors with an entrepreneurship minor, don’t take all their classes together, but, he said, “we want them to have at least one class a semester where they’re with that cohort.”
“This will allow our faculty to deliver an integrated view of business” and prepare students “to think like a business person,” explains the BizX Web site. “The feedback we receive from companies that come to BGSU to recruit indicates that knowledge of all areas of a business is extremely valuable.”
The group has taken two courses together each semester this academic year and will do so again, for the last time, next fall, when they will be classmates in business communications and introductory microeconomics courses. That time together should produce friendships and allegiances that will last beyond their years at Bowling Green, Nicholson predicted. “Some of them we may find working together as entrepreneurs in the future,” he noted.
One of their common classes last fall was Business Administration 150, a business overview course taught by four of the seven faculty members who comprise the BizX faculty. In addition to Nicholson—also an associate professor and chair of legal studies—that group includes Krebs, also a teacher in Entrepreneurship Academic Programs; Dr. Mary Ellen Benedict, a professor of economics; Dr. Susan Kleine, an associate professor of marketing; Drs. Earl McKinney and David Stott, both associate professors of accounting and management information systems, and Karen Eboch, a lecturer in the management department.
Learning outside the classroom
While they were in BA 150, the students went to Toledo’s Stranahan Theater to see “Movin’ Out,” based on the music of Billy Joel and choreographed by Twyla Tharp. Tharp has written books about creativity and the creative process, Nicholson said, and since those are areas of emphasis in entrepreneurship, the BA 150 faculty integrated the musical and Tharp’s writing into the classroom.
Another co-curricular experience that six of the students are sharing is involvement with the New Venture Opportunity, a BGSU Foundation venture fund. The students are earning academic credit for helping BGSU alumni develop business plans that go to a venture board of successful entrepreneurs for consideration for funding. Any Bowling Green graduate can submit a proposal to the board, which includes Mike Weger, the former Falcon football All-American and current Michigan businessman who suggested the program.
“We’re dealing with real, live business issues,” said Milt Baker, director of the Dallas-Hamilton Center. “We believe this is a leading-edge concept for experiential entrepreneurial learning. Coupled with the BizX program, the students receive an outstanding balance of both academic and practical education in entrepreneurship.”
It’s also the kind of experience that BizX planners hope will make it “a magnet program for good, motivated, entrepreneur-oriented students,” Nicholson said. They hope, too, that team teaching and potential linkages between business and general education courses will make BizX “an incubator for curricular innovation” in the business college, he said.