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Trine program connects college to county commerce

August 1st, 2018

By Chelsea Boulrisse | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

Trine University is doing its part to help entrepreneurism further thrive in Steuben County by launching a doctorate program for entrepreneurial leadership.

Starting Aug. 20, an expected dozen or so students will begin their journey toward a doctorate in entrepreneurial leadership.

“Leadership has been one of the core components of our graduate school since its inception,” Ryan Dombkowski, dean of the College of Graduate Studies, said. “Entrepreneurship as part of the leadership degree speaks to the idea that the university has also invested a lot into innovation and exciting new ideas.”

The program, according to program director Ken Rauch, will offer courses online in a “non-cohort” format, meaning students can go at their own pace to complete the degree. In addition to learning about research and meeting with professionals in the entrepreneurship world, students are also expected to attend the annual Leadership Academy hosted by Trine.

Although, in reality, a doctorate in entrepreneurship is not as necessary as a doctorate in medicine, Dombkowksi highlighted the program’s potential to give candidates a solid reputation in their industry and a chance to advance in higher education if they choose that path.

“In industry, I think it’s really about drawing attention to their business, the marketability of a leader of a business,” Dombkowksi said. “It’s really about credibility with the academy, it’s about opportunity in higher education. It helps individuals grow professionally, but also offer more teaching opportunities and leadership opportunities within higher education.”

As more and more people are seeing entrepreneurship as a viable career option, Rauch said, the amount of undergraduate and graduate programs has grown, but that higher-level degrees in the field are still uncommon.

“Practitioners in professional leadership roles are under-represented in the Ph.D. world based on a difficult balance of professional obligations and duties and traditional residency requirements of doctoral level study,” Rauch said.

Steuben County, Rauch hopes, will also reap the benefits of the graduate program. The Angola Chamber of Commerce as well as other representatives from the local business community are expected to help guide the curriculum’s development in a way that is beneficial for both the students and the county. When it comes time for dissertations, businesses in the area could prove to be helpful links for potential research. Rauch added that having a whole crew of experienced entrepreneurs graduating from a local university could provide even more exciting opportunities for the county.

“As students establish their research interest, Steuben County businesses will be approached for potential research projects to assist in the development of new market opportunities,” Rauch said. “At the same time, Steuben County will benefit with graduates that are equipped for potential business start-ups and expansion of existing business opportunities.”

Despite an unemployment rate of around 2.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Isaac Lee, executive director of the Steuben County Economic Development Corporation, is sure that the innovation and go-getter spirit of local entrepreneurs will remain strong. Trine’s academic expansion to promote advanced studies in this field further supports that belief.

“We believe that entrepreneurial spirit still lives and breathes very well in this world of low unemployment,” Lee said. “We believe that the entrepreneurialism aspect to it and what Trine’s already doing plays really well into our ability to continue in a low unemployment rate operate and still be successful.”