While finishing my doctoral degree, I had a job offer to lead an R&D project for a small technology company. After spending time with the entrepreneurial founder—who was also a physicist—I realized I was more interested in the entrepreneur’s job than in the research. So to get more business experience, I accepted another offer in hand with a leading management consulting firm.
Several years later, after traveling the globe solving business problems and studying companies inside and out, I became that entrepreneur. Using my science and business experience, I helped build a small materials science company into a global leader in its field. Next I headed an upstart energy services business as part of a Chicago entrepreneurial success story. And now at North Central, I’m bringing some of the lessons of those previous ventures to the world of higher education—challenging the faculty and staff to think creatively about their roles, to test new ideas and to ensure we’re achieving our mission of preparing students to be informed, involved, principled and productive citizens and leaders.
So I’m delighted that a healthy business sensibility and the lessons of entrepreneurship extend far beyond the traditional boundaries of management and economics classes at North Central. America’s economy has always depended on the innovation and dedication of entrepreneurs. Teaching entrepreneurship within the context of a comprehensive liberal arts and sciences curriculum gives North Central a unique advantage in preparing its graduates. Many of the best ideas and opportunities of the 21st century will come at the boundaries of two or more disciplines.
In this issue beginning on page 2, you’ll find some amazing stories of students, alumni and faculty who bring business savvy to fields ranging from art to computer science to theatre. Entrepreneurship depends upon critical skills like creative thinking, effective problem solving and thoughtful communication—skills that lie at the heart of every North Central major and our core liberal arts education.
The College has long fostered students’ entrepreneurial spirit. We offered our first “Commercial Course” in 1871 and the Department of Commerce flourished under the leadership of James L. Nichols, class of 1880. He published “The Business Guide, or Safe Methods of Business” in 1886 and later established both a publishing firm and a furniture company in Naperville. His book was probably the most important “how to” of business in its era.
In more recent history, the College launched a rare entrepreneurship class in 1987, expanded it into an academic major in 2000 and introduced social entrepreneurship. Our ongoing relationship with the Coleman Foundation and the Self-Employment in the Arts Conference, along with cocurricular organizations like Enactus, further round out opportunities for students who want to explore their talents against a business setting.
In the future, I want to encourage entrepreneurship through partnerships within our vibrant hometown. Naperville’s business community offers countless collaboration opportunities and will undoubtedly prove a rich area for exploration of new initiatives.
Much of today’s most interesting and satisfying work didn’t exist just a few years ago. I’m proud that our students and alumni find ways to contribute their skills, talents and passions to the world not only by getting jobs—but also by creating jobs. In this way, they continue to forge new paths to success for themselves, their families and their communities.
Dr. Troy D. Hammond