Home for startups: Virginia Tech ranked among nation’s top schools for entrepreneurship studies
Virginia Tech has been ranked No. 25 for undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in Princeton Review’s rankings for 2021, released Nov. 17.
This is the first year Virginia Tech has received a national ranking for entrepreneurship programs, said Derick Maggard, executive director of the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs, the university’s center for entrepreneurship programs. “But it confirms what students at Virginia Tech already know: this is home for startups.”
Maggard said interest in entrepreneurship has grown significantly in recent years among students at all academic colleges and institutes on campus, many of whom see entrepreneurship as a means to create positive change.
“With hands-on programs outside the classroom as well as faculty championing entrepreneurship in business, engineering, agriculture, architecture, and science courses, it’s easier than ever before for students to gain experiences in entrepreneurship during their time at Virginia Tech,” he said.
Entrepreneurship programs and coursework are anchored by a partnership between the Apex Center and Department of Management, which offers an option and a minor related to entrepreneurship. The center and the department are both based in the Pamplin College of Business, where innovation through entrepreneurship is a strategic focus area.
Pamplin Dean Robert Sumichrast said the national ranking is an exciting recognition, given the hard work that went into “building and growing a world-class entrepreneurship program in just five years.”
The availability of interdisciplinary experiences for students is a core strength of Virginia Tech, Sumichrast added, “and entrepreneurship is one of the leading ways for students to dive in.”
Since its inception in 2014, the Apex Center has been increasingly recognized for its work in entrepreneurship education. In 2018, it won the Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center Award, given by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers.
“We are the premier resource for Virginia Tech students — from any major and any year — to actively build, scale, or fund new ventures,” Maggard said. “Whether students are looking to connect with fellow entrepreneurs, join a team and build something new, or launch their own venture, the Apex Center has a program built to meet them where they are in their entrepreneurial journey.”
The center also fosters interactions between students and alumni who are entrepreneurs. “Our approach brings together successful alumni-entrepreneurs and investors to work with our students to help advance their ideas and bring new products to the marketplace,” said Maggard, citing such programs as Startup Hokies Accelerator, Venture Mentors, and KickStart VT. “We provide a platform for aspiring entrepreneurs to learn and practice entrepreneurship in a supportive environment.”
Expressing her appreciation for the help she has received from the community of Hokie entrepreneurs, Erica Sullivan, a 2020 Virginia Tech graduate in communication studies and founder of L.U.V, said she found the alumni network to be one of the greatest resources for a young, female entrepreneur looking for feedback, mentorship, and industry expertise.
Kenny Hanson, a 2013 graduate in business information technology and founder of MentorPass, said being able to connect with other alumni-entrepreneurs through Apex has not only “opened doors” but given him “peace of mind,” introducing him to suppliers and investors he knows he can trust. “That's incredibly hard to find.”
Sergei Dubograev, who earned finance and management degrees in 2010 and founded Clowder, said he met mentors and investors at one Apex event who helped him raise more than $1.5 million for his company over one-and-a-half years. “Just being present with the fellow alumni entrepreneurs who have done it and learning from them is something everyone should take advantage of,” he said. “It’s never been easier to start a business, but it’s harder than ever to execute. The Hokie Nation can help each other with the latter, and I’ve experienced it first hand."
Added Sullivan: “Being a Hokie entrepreneur means we rise by lifting others. Whether it be the gift of time, resources, or monetary means, Hokie entrepreneurs are invested in giving back in order to propel future innovations and offer opportunity.”
Pamplin and Apex have launched an advertising campaign, Maggard said, in Princeton Review, Entrepreneur magazine, and Entrepreneur.com. Called “This is Home for Startups,” the campaign seeks to promote Virginia Tech’s entrepreneurship programs “to encourage alumni to get involved and have their startups counted and celebrated.”
Learn more about how Virginia Tech is home for startups: apex.vt.edu/startups.
The Princeton Review has posted the full list at www.princetonreview.com/entrepreneur, where it can be accessed for free with site registration. Users can also access detailed profiles of the schools and find more information about the survey, criteria, and methodology for the rankings.
Entrepreneur has posted the full lists at https://www.entrepreneur.com/topcolleges. The results can also be found in Entrepreneur magazine, available on newsstands this month.