UI entrepreneur center officials seek new $7M budget


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As more students venture down the once unconventional path of entrepreneurship, two University of Iowa leaders are making the push for expanded facilities, business partnerships, additional online classes, and a broader statewide reach.

Daniel Reed, the UI vice president for Research and Economic Development, and David Hensley, the associate vice president for the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, traveled to Des Moines on Thursday to speak before an Iowa legislative committee about a budget request for the UI’s entrepreneurial program. With the current Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center’s operating budget of $1.7 million, UI officials are pursuing $7 million in total department funding.

With nearly 125 sections of entrepreneurship classes offered and more than 4,000 students enrolled, Hensley said, the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center is one of the largest programs in the United States by number of courses offered. And it’s experiencing growing pains.

“Through this strategic initiative, we want to build upon the success of the current programs, foster new business partnerships and create job opportunities,” Hensley said. “In an ever-changing economy, we believe students should have that entrepreneurial mindset no matter what their career ends up becoming. We really want to ramp up experiential learning.”

Hensley said expanded offerings will come in the form of undergraduate and graduate classes made available on campus and online. They’ll also include partnerships with youth entrepreneurship programs, an expanded Bedell Entrepreneurial Learning Laboratory, and a UI-Kirkwood Community College Oakdale education center.

Bedell Lab growth will include expansion onto an east-facing parking lot, remodeled basement, and enclosed entryway. Hensley said common areas will be renovated to accommodate a collaborative work environment.

UI President Sally Mason said she believes the plans can help attract entrepreneurial-thinkers.

“That team of David Hensley and Dan Reed is going to transform the … impact we can have not only locally, but statewide — and nationwide for that matter,” Mason told The Daily Iowan Thursday.

Life Designs founder and fifth-year UI senior Nate Richards said the Bedell Lab has helped his business with collaboration.

Reed said the UI focuses on creating an inclusive work environment beyond the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City “Creative Corridor.” Furthering business partnerships, he said, will set the precedent that Iowa is a great place for start-ups.

“What we’re trying to do is build an attractive environment so more students will support small businesses in Iowa,” he said. “How do we partner with existing companies to do more? Powerful people are everywhere and we need to connect with them.”

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