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Entrepreneurship program ranked 9th in nation

In one week, a student enrolled in USF’s Center for Entrepreneurship might attend a class in which students form a plan to market a new drug developed at Moffitt Cancer Center, learn about the ethics of marketing biomedical devices and work with University engineers to patent, license and sell a newly designed medical device.

The interdisciplinary graduate program offered by the center – a collaboration between the colleges of Business, Health Sciences and Engineering – was named the ninth best entrepreneurship program in the country Wednesday by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine.

Since it began five years ago, USF’s Center for Entrepreneurship has rapidly made its way into the upper ranks of entrepreneurial education.

“I’m absolutely on cloud nine,” said Michael Fountain, the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship. “This puts us into the elite of the elite and will help us to attract the best and brightest students.”

The program, with about 30 faculty members and 800 students from various disciplines, pushes hands-on projects with the Moffitt Cancer, Johnnie C. Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and other USF-affiliated institutions.

The students contribute more than 60,000 hours of work annually toward launching new technologies developed at USF, according to a University press release.

That work has paid off. Since it began, the program has helped launch and commercialize 29 new technologies, Fountain said.

The symbiosis between the entrepreneurship and institutions at USF, producing cutting-edge drugs and other biomedical products, has generated a steady flow of money back into the University from technology ventures, which funds more research as well as scholarships and grants, Fountain said.

The program also has close ties to the regional economy. Many of its graduates pursue local careers in venture capital, fast-growing entrepreneurial businesses and engineering firms.

“It creates a tight relationship between regional funding sources and USF,” Fountain said. “The way we see it, we’re helping to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the state of Florida.”

The center offers a 30-hour program for a Master of Science degree in entrepreneurship and private technologies, and 12-hour programs for several different graduate certificates in entrepreneurship.

It also partners with the Kansas City, Mo.-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for the Institute for Excellence in Life Sciences Entrepreneurship, which researches the driving force behind successful and innovative businesses.

This year undergraduates can take classes at the center for the first time, and plans are underway to expand the program to offer an entrepreneurship minor to undergraduates in business and non-business tracks of study, said Robert Forsythe, dean of the College of Business.

“We want to grow the program and make it better,” Forsythe said. “We’re only No. 9, so the way I see it, we have some work to do.”

Graduates of the program have created a Kauffman Alumni Foundation, which boasts distinguished professionals from around the globe. It also sponsors internships and scholarships for students studying at the center, which is housed on the third floor of the Business building.

“Without the alumni involvement, the understanding of the president, the support of the provost and the work of the deans in the College(s) of Business, Health Sciences and Engineering, none of this could have happened,” Fountain said.

David Guidi can be reached at (813) 974-1888 or oracleguidi@gmail.com.