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This past November, Virginia Tech was ranked No. 25 for undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in Princeton Review’s rankings for 2021, marking the first year Virginia Tech has received a national ranking for entrepreneurship programs.

The ranking is well-earned recognition for many within the university, including the Pamplin College of Business, where innovation through entrepreneurship is one of the Strategic Pillars. The Princeton Review ranking is a source of pride for the Department of Management because the department has a major, an interdisciplinary minor, and a dozen courses focused on entrepreneurship and innovation.

According to Devi Gnyawali, Management department head and R. B. Pamplin Professor of Management, the department started the entrepreneurship-focused concentration option within the Management Major almost 20 years ago. It created an entrepreneurship-based curriculum and made the concentration option available for management majors graduating in 2003. Initially called E-Management, the concentration option was renamed a few years later Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Technology, or EIT.

“The EIT option is designed to prepare students to take an entrepreneurial approach in their work and career,” said Gnyawali. “It helps students develop an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset, and enables them to be proactive and innovative. Such skills will help them to lead and manage innovative initiatives in existing organizations, or start and manage their own ventures.”

Ron Poff, assistant professor of practice in Management, explained that the EIT program was established utilizing feedback from successful Pamplin alumni. “It was developed to provide our business students with a curriculum that could prepare them for starting their own ventures, as this was feedback from our alumni that had successfully launched new businesses,” he said. “In addition, we noticed a trend that organizations were looking for graduates with a growth mindset that had extensive problem-solving skills that could bring innovative solutions to their organizations quickly.”

The EIT curriculum has grown over the last few years, according to Poff. These courses include Focus on the Foundations of Entrepreneurship, Business and Financial Modeling, Leadership in Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship. Most of the entrepreneurship courses are open to all Virginia Tech students.

Department of Management is also the academic home for a course focused on the commercialization of innovation. This unique course co-listed with Engineering Education and Industrial Design is the capstone course for the Innovation Minor and “allows students to use a semester-long experiential project to perform a feasibility study and position the venture for a potential launch.”

The curriculum also collaborates closely with the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs, which provides extraordinary experiential learning opportunities and collaboration across all of the colleges within the University. The Apex Center for Entrepreneurs in the Pamplin College of Business has two management faculty members who lead the curricular and research programs: Professor Rick Hunt serves as the research director and Professor David Townsend serves as the academic director.

As Poff explained, it takes a student with a particular mentality to jump into the sometimes murky and always uncertain world of entrepreneurship. “I think the program attracts students who are focused on solving problems, looking to work with others collaboratively, can embrace uncertainty and ambiguity with creativity and inspiration, students who like to have fun solving problems, and students who have a curiosity to learn more about other fields of study through networking, listening, and engaging.”

Many Virginia Tech students are interested in entrepreneurship. That is why the Department of Management created in 2013 the Entrepreneurship – New Venture Growth, or ENVG minor.

We wanted to provide the opportunity to any Virginia Tech student to develop the entrepreneurial mindset and skills and enable them to succeed in their career, or start and manage a new venture,” explained Gnyawali.

“Any student who is thinking of starting their own business in the future or any student who would like to start their career in a medium-to-large size company and bring immediate value for being an innovative and problem-solving leader should be interested in picking up the ENVG minor,” added Poff.

He continued, “Entrepreneurship is an interdisciplinary program. Pamplin and the Management Department 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.”

That investment in the department is readily apparent. As well as the aforementioned 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.

“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.

“With the EIT option and the ENVG minor, we have entrepreneurial education opportunities for any Virginia Tech student.”