The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Rank Bauer’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship Among Best in Nation
The entrepreneurship program at the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business has once again been named one of the best in the nation.
Bauer College’s Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship (WCE) is ranked No. 2 in the United States on a list of Top 25 Best Undergrad Programs for Entrepreneurs in 2018 compiled by The Princeton Review and published in Entrepreneur magazine. It has earned a Top 10 ranking for more than a decade.
WCE’s core mission is to make a difference in students’ lives through entrepreneurship. But the corresponding economic impact is also powerful, extending far beyond Bauer or UH: Roughly 70 percent of U.S. job creation comes from entrepreneurial businesses. Students who took a major or certificate program through WCE within the past 10 years have created 441 businesses with more than $156 million in funding and a 96 percent survival rate.
“Entrepreneurship is something that is so central to the U.S. economy,” said Bauer College Dean Latha Ramchand. “What we do is to get people to think creatively, and from that they are creating jobs and resources that are furthering opportunity and adding tremendous value to the Houston region and beyond.”
She added: “The Wolff Center’s contributions, so consistently recognized through this ranking year after year after year, are truly something that should be celebrated.”
The Top 25 schools named by The Princeton Review and featured each year in Entrepreneur are ranked based on several measures of entrepreneurship education, inside and outside the classroom. Successful and sustained business startups, active mentors and generous funding for scholarships and grants are some of the factors that go into ranking the top programs culled from more than 2,000 programs under consideration.
“We think the ranking is important,” said David Cook, director of the Wolff Center. “For students to come to UH, to a program that has been adjudicated at the highest level in the nation, is really a kind of cool attribute. That engagement with excellence is really important to our students, to our staff and to our mentors, and it is certainly important to recruiting new students.”
In 2016, more than 2,000 UH students, from programs across campus, took at least one entrepreneurship course at Bauer. Approximately 500 complete a certificate in corporate, technology or social entrepreneurship each year.
The undergraduate major features a rigorous application process, unique lockstep curriculum, extensive extracurricular activities and mentoring. Approximately 400 business leaders — people who have contributed to the Houston area’s vibrant economy and want to pass on what they know to tomorrow’s business innovators — play a huge role in setting the program apart from others.
“An integral part of the program is the involvement of mentors who go above and beyond, people who show clearly that to run a business you need to lead with both the head and the heart,” Ramchand said. “Students learn that besides analytical skills you also need to be able to deal with people, to demonstrate how balanced you are, how resilient you are. The students are learning so much from these instructors and mentors, and they also learn a great deal from each other.”
The program has grown and evolved each year since its inception.
Women in Entrepreneurship, a recently added course, addresses the specific issues faced by female entrepreneurs. WCE also supports the college’s SURE™ (Stimulating Urban Renewal through Entrepreneurship) Program, which promotes entrepreneurship by underserved populations. WCE students also participate in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, in which participating inmates are coached through the development of plans for businesses they might start after their release, and in the process develop useful skills.
At the graduate level, students manage the million dollar Cougar Venture Fund, working with an advisory board of entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists to analyze and invest in early stage technology companies.
Numerous cross-campus entrepreneurial applications have targeted STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines. At 3 Day Startup, students from a range of different majors and programs team up to pitch ideas and develop business models over the course of a weekend. In the RED Labs summer accelerator, teams of students attempt to launch technology-based businesses, a project that runs jointly with Rice University’s OwlSpark accelerator. The summer accelerator concludes with Bayou Startup Showcase, a joint pitch event that draws more than 500 people from Houston’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Cross-campus outreach also touches other disciplines. Entrepreneurship majors have developed business plans for products designed by students in the UH Industrial Design program, and teams of entrepreneurship majors are assisted by students from the Valenti School of Communications in developing business plans for technologies invented at UH.
The Wolff Center community was saddened this year by the death of namesake business leader and philanthropist Melvyn Wolff, as well as Jim Wilkinson, a steadfast supporter, teacher and mentor. The Center will continue to reflect their values and vision, Cook said. It enjoys the support of “so many good people like the Wolffs who want to create a program that is world-renowned, put in an investment and are now reaping the reward of seeing it recognized.”
Ramchand noted that recent changes and additions to the program have propelled its mission in a way that is “truly powerful.”
She said: “This is not your father’s entrepreneurship program. It’s not even your older brother’s entrepreneurship program. It’s changing every day. For our students, entrepreneurship is not just a theory or something they learn in a textbook — they are using it to create opportunity for the community that surrounds us.”
By Julie Bonnin