• 66°

McLean Institute offers Entrepreneurial Leadership Program

By Edwin Smith

University of Mississippi

Rising high school sophomores and juniors are encouraged to apply for a University of Mississippi summer enrichment program aimed at training future entrepreneurs and business leaders.

The second annual McLean Entrepreneurial Leadership Program is a week-long, nonprofit effort for 30 students in 10th and 11th grades. Presented by a cohort of the Innovation Fellows program of the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or CEED, initiative at the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, it meets July 9-14 on the Oxford campus.

“The goal of the program will be to introduce an initial cohort of students from around the state to the entrepreneurial spirit of community development,” said Brady Ruffin, a senior marketing communications major and executive director of the university’s Students Activities Association.

“To do this, the group of students will interact with community leaders throughout Oxford and Lafayette County, while also being exposed to readings and lectures from professors, community leaders and students.”

The registration deadline is June 23.

The inaugural class of MELP met May 29-June 3, 2016 on the Oxford campus. The weeklong series of activities was sponsored by the McLean Institute in partnership with the Office of Pre-College Programs.

Terrius Harris and Ryan Snow, innovation scholars with the CEED initiative, were instrumental in planning and facilitating that program.

“In this first summer, we sought to introduce an initial cohort of students from around the state to the entrepreneurial approaches to addressing pressing community needs,” said Albert Nylander, director of the McLean Institute and a professor of sociology.

“Our initial assessment indicates that at the beginning of the week, only one student believed that he or she could become an entrepreneur. By week’s end, the overwhelming majority of participants believed they had the potential to become entrepreneurs.”

MELP is structured to help students identify problems in their own communities and use innovative approaches to solving them. Throughout the week, participants study principles of entrepreneurship, data and demographics, environmental sustainability, and health and wellness through readings, lectures from Ole Miss faculty and staff, and field trips to meet with community leaders.

MELP’s first-year goal was to pilot a scalable and replicable program that will stimulate an interest in entrepreneurship among high school students that can be harnessed to solve community and state problems through community engagement.

As a follow-up, the McLean Institute conducted exit interviews and had students fill out surveys to evaluate the program. When asked to define the term “entrepreneurship,” one student responded with “having the courage to speak up about a problem and make a plan to fix it and follow through with your plan.”

The program’s goal is to bring about this type of inspired and innovative thinking, said J.R. Love, project manager for the CEED initiative.

“Thanks to our CEED students, program partners and the students who joined us this week, we have come together to learn from one another and join forces to address pressing social and economic problems in Mississippi,” Love said. “I am optimistic that we can expand this program in the future and develop a network of partnerships across the state that will impact the quality of life in Mississippi.”

Besides the Office of Pre-College Programs, other MELP partners include the UM Center for Population Studies, Office of Sustainability, RebelWell and Food Bank, Square Books in Oxford, and Home Place Pastures in Como.