Virginia Tech received the Model Program Award from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) during the 2022 USASBE Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education Awards held on Jan. 8. The award recognizes bold and innovative programs making an impact in the field of entrepreneurship education with comprehensive, high-quality educational programs that successfully train future generations of entrepreneurs.

“The award reflects our commitment to high-quality innovative teaching and expertise in the field of entrepreneurship,” said Pamplin College of Business Dean Robert Sumichrast. “We have worked very hard to build and grow a world-class entrepreneurship program in a very short amount of time, and the success of the program is reflected in such honors.”

Colleges and universities are selected for USASBE awards after a nomination process, where information regarding entrepreneurship programs is submitted and judged based on demonstrated innovation, quality, comprehensiveness, sustainability, impact, and their potential replicability. Awards finalists are then asked to submit a video pitch. Finally, school representatives participate in a 15-minute Q&A session before a panel of judges.

Representing Virginia Tech in the Q&A session were Dean Sumichrast; Management Department Head Devi GnyawaliAssistant Professor of Practice of Management Ron PoffAssociate Professor of Management David Townsend; and Collegiate Associate Professor of Management Chien-Chi Tseng.

“Virginia Tech’s program is boldly comprehensive, with a significant lineup of faculty focused on entrepreneurship, many courses, integration with partners, and impressive leadership support,” said Judi Eyles, program awards chair for USASBE 2022. “The judges felt strongly that this program offers many examples that others can learn from to implement on their own campuses.”

Previous Model Program Award winners include Iowa State University in 2021, Purdue University in 2020, University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2019, and Syracuse University in 2018.

“This award is validation of Virginia Tech’s continued commitment to entrepreneurship through the engagement of the entire university community,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “Our hands-on entrepreneurial education equips students with the skills, experience, and perspective they need to succeed in an ever-evolving global economy.”

The award is the most recent in a string of acknowledgments entrepreneurship programs at Virginia Tech have received. Last November, Virginia Tech was ranked No. 25 for undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in Princeton Review’s rankings for 2022, marking the second straight year it received the ranking.

The Pamplin College of Business has established itself as ground zero for entrepreneurship at Virginia Tech, where innovation and entrepreneurship are “Pamplin Pillars,” or strategic areas of focus for the college. The Department of Management, housed within Pamplin, offers the Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Technology (EIT) concentration option in the management major, as well as an interdisciplinary minor in entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and New Venture Growth (ENVG), open to any student at Virginia Tech.

The department teaches a dozen courses focused on entrepreneurship and innovation, and the courses range in subject matter from foundations of entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, to technology entrepreneurship. The Department of Management has world-class faculty who conduct research on cutting-edge entrepreneurship topics and the faculty use insights from their research in their teaching.

“We are grateful to receive such recognition,” said Gnyawali. “It underscores our growth as a program and the sustained excellence with which our faculty, staff, students, and stakeholders work together collaboratively to build the Virginia Tech entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

The development and enrichment of the aforementioned entrepreneurship ecosystem at Virginia Tech and in the Commonwealth of Virginia was a point of interest to the USASBE panel of judges. This ecosystem extends beyond the limits of the Blacksburg campus reaches across the globe.

Within Blacksburg, the entrepreneurship ecosystem includes the Apex Center for EntrepreneursCalhoun Honors ProgramInnovate Living-Learning CommunityLink+License+Launch, and the Creativity + Innovation Destination Area. Outside of the Virginia Tech campus, the ecosystem extends to the Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, and the Innovation Campus in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area. Globally, a partnership between Virginia Tech and the School of Economics and Management at Xidian University in Xi'an, China, was recently announced that will train future leaders to work cooperatively to lead world-class entrepreneurial ventures.

“The entrepreneurial ecosystem at, and surrounding, Virginia Tech continues to be recognized for our stellar student entrepreneurs and the programs that help them advance their ideas and businesses,” said Derick Maggard, executive director of the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs. “This award is yet another huge recognition of all the efforts of the leadership, faculty, and students from across campus.”

The success of the entrepreneurship program is due, in part, to its interdisciplinary nature. Entrepreneurs are not bound by a single major, and the curriculum reflects that, as the program offers a minor in entrepreneurship open to students of all disciplines.

“With the EIT option and the entrepreneurship minor, we have entrepreneurial education opportunities for any Virginia Tech student,” said Tseng. “Entrepreneurship is an interdisciplinary program. Pamplin and the Department of Management developed a minor that would support the growth and investment that Virginia Tech has made in the programming with outstanding world-class research and instructional team for all of Virginia Tech.”

The number of students participating in entrepreneurship courses has doubled over the last five years, from around 600 students to over 1200 students. Currently, around 300 students are enrolled in the EIT major and entrepreneurship minor.

“Our educational programs enable students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and related organizational skills to identify problems,” said Poff. “We teach students to convert the problems into opportunities, attract and deploy resources to pursue those opportunities, and lead through innovation in both new and established companies.”

“Some students may not start a business right after graduating,” Gnyawali said. “But they may want to do so after a few years of corporate experience. Others want to develop their entrepreneurial and innovative knowledge and skills to succeed in their career.

As well as the overall ranking in Princeton Review, Management’s undergraduate degree was ranked No. 6 in its “25 Best Business Bachelor’s Degrees for 2020,” and faculty research has been published and/or referenced in several publications over the last few years.

“We have a lot to be proud of for the many awards and recognitions-to-date,” said Townsend. “We have even more things to be proud of regarding the impact we are having in the lives of our students, colleagues, and the surrounding entrepreneurship ecosystem. This is a great award to validate the progress we have so far and a great reminder that the best is yet to come.”

Share this story