Grant bolsters entrepreneurial programs

Bates has won a $35,190 grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, Mo., to expand entrepreneurial career programming for students and alumni and raise awareness of entrepreneurship in the liberal arts.

Bates is among 52 U.S. colleges and universities receiving more than $2.3 million from the foundation.

Among current programs to receive Kauffman funding is the Bates Seminar Series on Entrepreneurship, now in its fourth year. The series brings to campus business founders, leaders of non-profits and other experts who discuss their own ventures or shed light on diverse aspects of launching a business.

Approximately $14,000 in Kauffman funds will expand this series to expose more students to seminar participants, said A. Charles Kovacs, director of the Office of Career Services. The college will also add additional seminars in the spring and fall of 2003 and spring 2004.

“Most, if not all, of our seminar presenters are products of a liberal arts environment,” Kovacs said. Recent seminar speakers have included 1980 Bates graduate Jim Amaral, whose company, Borealis Breads, has brought a new social consciousness to the Maine marketplace; Burt’s Bees co-founder and president Roxanne Quimby, who came to Bates to discuss market prospects for female entrepreneurs; and Bates trustee and 1980 graduate J. Michael Chu, a managing partner of Catterton Partners, who addressed trends in venture capital.

Bates will devote the remaining $21,000 in grant funds to improve and expand off-campus internship programs, including the addition of an alumni internship opportunity.

The Bates Career Discovery Internship Program, in which students spend February vacation week interning with Bates alumni in their workplaces, has been hampered by the cost of participation. “CDIP internships provide an essential opportunity to reality-test a particular field of interest,” Kovacs said. “But because students must pay for travel and lodging, we have more internships offered than our students take advantage of.” Grant funds will support stipends to participating students.

Bates will also create the Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneurial Internship Program to provide fully funded summer internships at startup firms to, initially, three students and one recent Bates graduate. The internships will complement the college’s popular Ladd Internship Program that provides summer internships in established business and not-for-profit settings.

Bates officials say that the nation’s top liberal arts colleges have long nurtured the entrepreneurial spirit in their students. “Bates students are challenged to put into practice important and complex ideas, often outside the confines of the laboratory, a particular discipline or the campus itself,” said Jill N. Reich, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty. “The same qualities that we seek to develop in our students — independent thinking and the powers of critical assessment, analysis and expression — are those that are highly associated with entrepreneurial success.”

Recent alumni surveys underscore the connection, said William C. Hiss, vice president for external and alumni affairs. “For a college with a long-standing reputation in the sciences, we were surprised to discover we had more graduates whose title was ‘entrepreneur,’ having founded their own businesses, than we did M.D.s.”

“As an entrepreneur, you have to see your way through barriers that would stop 99 percent of the rest of the population,” said 1992 Bates graduate Joel Bines, who earned his M.B.A. from Harvard and co-founded an Internet marketing company in Texas. “At Bates, you learn to overcome barriers.”

The Kauffman Foundation considered more than 300 proposals in making the 2003 awards, according to foundation officials. “The quality of the proposals we have seen this year clearly demonstrates that an entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and creativity is sweeping across college campuses in the United States,” said Tony Mendes, director of initiatives in college entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private grant-making foundation established in 1966 by Ewing Kauffman to encourage entrepreneurship and improve education of children and youth. Kauffman, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who died in 1992, founded Marion Laboratories Inc., which he sold in 1989 to Merrell Dow, at which time it was a global diversified pharmaceutical giant with annual sales of nearly $1 billion.

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