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UND department graduates to school status

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GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota’s Department of Entrepreneurship will become one of the nation’s first schools of entrepreneurship in the fall, and officials there hope the name change will attract more students and donors.

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“We are phenomenally excited about this opportunity,” said Dennis Elbert, dean of the College of Business and Public Administration. “Like anything else, any business venture, there’s an element of risk, but we think we’ve done our due diligence.”

The three-person Entrepreneurship Department will remain within the college despite becoming the School of Entrepreneurship. In explaining its request for the name change from the State Board of Higher Education, UND said the primary benefit is “to offer greater visibility to the programs of study associated with entrepreneurship.”

Only four other higher-education institutions in the nation have entrepreneurship schools, according to UND.

Skeptical board

Some state board members, who ultimately approved the name change Thursday, were initially skeptical, worrying that creating a “school” with just three full-time employees would set a bad precedent.

They said they plan to re-evaluate guidelines on what makes a department versus what makes a school, because they couldn’t find any currently in place.

“My approach would be to let it slide this time but ... we’ve got to tighten this up,” said Doug Munski, faculty adviser to the state board.

Elbert said a precedent was set by the Harold Hamm School of Geology, created in 2012 after the oil billionaire of the same name backed the creation of the school. He also cited the School of Engineering and Mines becoming a college the same year and said this sort of change is normal within a university.

“We’re in the intro stage and we want to be on the front end, on the cusp,” he said.

Still, Elbert said he plans to recruit more faculty members.

“The possibility of dual appointments exists,” he said. “Somebody in the College of Nursing could also be working at School of Entrepreneurship.”

Future growth

The new venture isn’t expected to cost UND more, according to Elbert. It might gain the university funding.

He said donors are “all very excited about this possibility.”

In the recent school year, about 900 students took at least one Entrepreneurship Department class and more than 400 took more than one class.

UND said it believes the creation of the Entrepreneurship School would increase the number of students interested in the subject by 80.

Elbert himself will join the school this fall as an endowed faculty member specializing in leadership education.

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