The University of St. Thomas’ entrepreneurial studies program is drawing more national attention, as more people take note of the unique experiences and opportunities it’s creating for undergraduate students.
A year after jumping 10 spots in the Princeton Review’s annual list of top undergraduate entrepreneurship programs, the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship advanced another five to the No. 18 ranking. In its fourth year on the list, the Schulze School again ranked No. 1 among the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges for students studying entrepreneurship.
The 2023 ranking places the Schulze School as Minnesota’s top entrepreneurship school and third among institutions with less than 10,000 students. The school also moved up two spots to No. 5 in the Midwest.
The Princeton Review ranking reflects factors such as academics; student engagement; successful alumni entrepreneurship ventures; student involvement outside the classroom; competitions hosted by the school; and scholarships. Last year, the Schulze School awarded $1.78 million in scholarships and grants specifically to undergraduates studying entrepreneurship. The school also awarded $357,000 in total cash prizes and more than $150,000 in in-kind prizes in its competitions last year.
But the school impacts more than just St. Thomas’ entrepreneurship majors; nearly a quarter of all St. Thomas students – regardless of major – took an entrepreneurship course in the last year. At the university’s Freshman Innovation Immersion in late August, attendees represented 41 different majors.
“The enthusiasm for entrepreneurship runs across St. Thomas, and we are honored to be recognized by the Princeton Review for the outstanding student experience,” Schulze School of Entrepreneurship Associate Dean Sheneeta White said. “Advancing the common good is more than just a part of our Catholic university’s mission statement. It’s something that our students take to heart, and when combined with their entrepreneurial mindset, can creatively solve the challenges in our world today.”
The school’s signature competitions include e-Fest-Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge, the Fowler Business Concept Challenge, the St. Thomas Business Plan Competition, and the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge. On Nov. 18, for instance, the Fowler Business Concept Challenge will announce winners of more than $85,000 in scholarship prizes. Focused on energizing the entrepreneurial spirit of St. Thomas students from across campus, the Fowler Business Concept Challenge encourages students of all majors to explore their potential, search out new opportunities and use the skills and knowledge they have acquired to make a difference in the world by creating a concept for a new business or social venture.
Examples of innovative business ideas that have progressed to the semifinals of this year’s Fowler Business Concept Challenge include: Chumisa, a concept addressing poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and food security in sub-Saharan Africa; Conversation Candles, created to facilitate moments of clarity for people living with dementia and their loved ones; and BeScene, which brings the STEAM curriculum into imaginative play that not only incorporates the predominant learning styles and stimulates the five senses, but also encourages stewardship of the environment.
“The entrepreneurial values that I have been able to grow at St. Thomas will help me to do meaningful work, whether it be at a Fortune 500 company, a consulting firm or a nonprofit,” said Fowler Business Concept Challenge semifinalist Grace Northamer ’22, who also was a semifinalist in 2020 and recently placed first in the Stofer/Stensby Real Estate Student Competition. “I have gone from believing that an entrepreneur is someone who starts a business, grows it and either sells it or takes it public to understanding that entrepreneurial values show up in all work situations and often even in your personal life.”
The Schulze School of Entrepreneurship provides an undergraduate program, graduate courses, community resources and seed capital for student and alumni ventures. Located in Schulze Hall on the St. Thomas Minneapolis campus, the Schulze School is the only of its kind within a business school, housing world-class centers and institutes including the Family Business Center and the Small Business Development Center. In addition to serving business students, the Schulze School engages cross-campus, cross-disciplinary students and professionals to participate in entrepreneurial education and activities, and access resource centers.
Many noteworthy businesses have been born at St. Thomas since the Schulze School was launched in 2005. Examples of businesses started by Opus College of Business alumni focused on social entrepreneurship include: Seraph 7 Studios, a company that develops console video games that create change for BIPOC communities; NETZRO, a leader in food upcycling; and Love Your Melon, an apparel brand supporting the fight against pediatric cancer.