An anonymous donor has provided a landmark gift that will enhance The University of Baltimore's support of its entrepreneurial students—including students who are enrolled in the University's Second Chance College program for incarcerated men at the state's Jessup Correctional Institution. The three-year award of $887,000 will allow UBalt to enroll more students in entrepreneurial courses, support more who want to start their own businesses while still studying for their degrees, and strengthen ties between the University's entrepreneurial community and local businesses. Students from the Real Estate and Economic Development (REED) program in the Merrick School of Business will be selected for scholarships to support their work in creating more affordable housing in Baltimore.
"Through the generosity of this anonymous donor, we are capitalizing on the gains we’ve made over the past several years in entrepreneurship, small business, real estate development, and Second Chance," says University of Baltimore President Kurt L. Schmoke. "This is a significant step for us, and a signal to our students that we are in full support of their goals of being successful as business practitioners—founders, owners, employers and leaders. The real strength of our city is in plain sight through this effort. It’s a lot of the best of what we do, for and with the community."
Many UBalt students in the Merrick School are pursuing entrepreneurship, but the appeal of that area of study also reaches into UBalt's School of Law (solo practitioners), the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences (freelance writers and designers) and the College of Public Affairs (non-profit experts and public-policy specialists). These students make frequent use of the University's Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), a hub for activities such as business pitch competitions, guest lectures, resource sharing and more. In the REED and Entrepreneurship Fellows programs, students interact with established professionals to learn key principles of development and map out their career plans, much of it in a mentor/mentee setting. Some, for example, want to find new ways to make local housing more affordable, or create new businesses in their neighborhoods.
"The common thread here is betterment," Schmoke says. "We have a lot of entrepreneurial students who have incredible ideas, things that could change the world. But what they share is a determination to improve conditions on the ground. We’ve always been about that at UBalt, and now we’re reaching up to the next step for our students."
Nowhere at UBalt is this more in evidence than in the Second Chance program, based in the College of Public Affairs and operating out of the Jessup facility. Currently, Second Chance students, taught by professors who visit the prison, are working toward a bachelor's degree in Human Services Administration. The goal is to graduate, then use their degree as a foundation for a successful life after prison. This year, eight students are expected to finish the program, and others are closing in on completing their credits.
These three areas of the University, each highly active and with potential for growth, will be lifted up by the anonymous gift. It will be deployed in support of new educational offerings that are designed to broaden the appeal and impact of the entrepreneurship programs at UBalt, and create new scholarship and living stipend opportunities for graduate, Second Chance (who have been released), and REED students. In addition, it will provide Second Chance students who are still incarcerated with the opportunity to minor in entrepreneurship, which will better prepare them for career success upon release and/or graduation. At the center of this initiative, CEI will support student entrepreneurs who are dedicated to small business development, social enterprise, and affordable housing.
Notable among the opportunities supported by the gift is a new entrepreneur development fund, designed to help students interested in entrepreneurship cover the costs of venture-related needs. UBalt entrepreneurs will have access to working capital to pay for necessary but often expensive business needs, such as legal fees for entity development, website creation, and prototype development. CEI will be enabled to devote additional funds to its growing pool of working capital resources for student entrepreneurs, including the University System of Maryland's Baltimore Fund and the new Tagler Growth Fund. These resources are available to University of Baltimore students without restriction and are designed to help them finance the development and growth of their business ideas and enterprises.