Economic Development Network Recognizes Bauer College Initiative
The Stimulating Urban Renewal through Entrepreneurship (SURE™) Program at the University of Houston, C. T. Bauer College of Business was recently recognized as one of the nation’s best university-led economic development initiatives.
U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary Dennis Alvord presented SURE™ representatives with the 2019 Award of Excellence for Innovation + Talent award at the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) annual summit Oct. 1.
“This project represents a best practice initiative in university-based economic development and is a leading-edge national example of regional transformation for economic prosperity,” UEDA judges said. “This project has been recognized by peers nationwide as an original, scalable, and sustainable solution which should be replicated.”
SURE™ is an innovative educational model that creates a value-added partnership between University of Houston students, under-resourced entrepreneurs from the local community, and business thought leaders. Since its founding in 2012, SURE™ has educated more than 1,200 current and aspiring Houston area entrepreneurs, trained more than 300 Bauer College students, and been instrumental in the launch or expansion of nearly 300 local businesses.
“At the heart of the program is experiential learning for our students, along with a commitment to service and civic engagement,” said SURE™ Founder/Director Saleha Khumawala, the Robert Grinaker Professor of Accounting at Bauer.
Khumawala added: “The SURE™ program is grateful to receive this award, as it highlights the effort and collaboration by our students, community volunteers, and entrepreneurs. However, the greatest benefit was to present the SURE™ program on a national stage. Our goal is to not only make this program a transformative experience for our students, and many in the city of Houston, but to also replicate its impact on college campuses and cities across the country.”
Graduates have likened the program to “a mini-MBA.” Aspiring entrepreneurs who have proposed a business idea attend 12 free lectures and partner with student consultant/mentors from Bauer College, UH Law Center, and engineering and social sciences. Classes are led by experts in their fields who share valuable insight into key components of successfully starting a business, from writing a business plan to developing and delivering a pitch to secure capital.
Students also benefit tremendously from SURE™’s experiential, service-learning approach, Khumawala said.
“What the students are getting out of it is so powerful,” she said. “They get real world experience, world class business guidance from the experts in the corporate world. And students who have this on their resume get jobs, because they have developed the skills employers are asking for: Working in teams, deep empathy, critical thinking, communication and leadership training.”
For the UEDA competition, a panel of university and economic development professionals selected 20 finalists from nominated projects representing the top university-based economic development initiatives in the country.
Finalists from each Award of Excellence category presented their projects at the Summit in Reno-Tahoe, Nevada, and the professionals and educators in attendance voted for the best project for each.
Bauer’s fellow finalists in the Innovation + Talent category included Western Carolina University, University of Alabama and the University of Wisconsin System.
“Participation in UEDA’s Awards of Excellence Program has shown that when these unique and innovative initiatives are given a wider audience to share their successes, they spur further engagement and inspire other professionals and institutions to introduce these best practices in their home regions,” said Margo Fliss, chair of the UEDA Awards of Excellence committee.
SURE™ has won numerous awards. In August, it was named one of 66 organizations in 14 countries that make up Ashoka U’s #MillionsofChangemakers coalition, showcasing SURE™’s commitment to developing next-generation leaders and entrepreneurs whose business ventures elevate individuals, their neighborhoods and the world at large. Ashoka U is the higher education initiative of Ashoka, a global network of social entrepreneurs.
By Julie Bonnin