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Elms College Launches Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership

CHICOPEE — Elms College announced the launch of its new Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) to expand business-education offerings at the college through a hands-on, real-world approach.

“In this time of a rapidly emerging entrepreneurial society, we need to create a flexible structure to accommodate not only degree work but also certificate programs, workshops, consulting services, and other assistance needed to make sure that entrepreneurs are equipped not only to start a business but, more importantly, to sustain it over time,” said Elms College President Sr. Mary Reap.

The Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership was developed with that goal in mind. Reap and Elms faculty have worked closely with focus groups comprised of area businesses and officials to assess the specific needs of the local business community.

Amanda Garcia, assistant professor of Accounting, was appointed director of the CEL in January. “We have an opportunity to provide hands-on learning experience,” Garcia said. “That was one of the major things that came out of the focus groups: ‘we need it to be real, and we need it to be hands-on.’”

To that end, the CEL will incorporate Lean Launchpad, a startup methodology in which new businesses receive immediate feedback from customers in the marketplace during the business launch.

“We know that the majority of businesses fail in the first five years, and a big cause of that is due to not understanding specific core business concepts or the marketplace needs,” Garcia noted. The Lean Launchpad model allows startup owners to learn as they grow their businesses and react to market demands.

The CEL’s academic offerings will include an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship, which will launch this fall. “We also plan to integrate it into an entrepreneurship track in our MBA,” Garcia said, “and we will explore the needs in the marketplace around business-growth strategies and programming related to business growth and mergers and acquisitions.”

The entrepreneurship track will join existing accounting, healthcare leadership, and management tracks in the Elms MBA program.

“Elms College also has a mission to give back to the community,” Garcia said. “We know that economic development and entrepreneurship is a big part of making our community better, so we’re planning to offer workshops and Lean Launchpad boot camps on weekends, to help people flesh out their ideas. We are also planning programming to help them learn what to do once they flesh out those ideas.”

The CEL will also partner with the college’s nursing and science programs.

“I see great opportunity in collaborating with the Elms Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in the development of an interdisciplinary healthcare leadership program for master’s-prepared and certified nurse practitioners, as well as master’s-prepared clinical nurse leaders who seek the doctor of nursing practice,” said Dr. Kathleen Scoble, dean of the School of Nursing. “We believe that the Lean Launchpad is an excellent methodology, well-matched for nursing and healthcare, and an extraordinary learning opportunity for these advanced nursing students.”

Added Garcia, “for our biomedical technology program, we’re looking to incorporate Lean Launchpad in bringing research to commercialization. It’s one thing to have research, and it’s another thing to commercialize it and make money off of it. The National Science Foundation has partnered with Lean Launchpad on the national level to be the main method of bringing scientific research to the marketplace.”

The college will renovate space this summer to house the CEL, Reap said.

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