By Tim Cornelius
Interim Dean–Business and Computer Information
NorthWest Arkansas Community College, Bentonville, AR
Ten Arkansas community colleges have signed a memorandum of understanding in which they agreed to collaborate and offer a core set of entrepreneurship courses using the same course titles and course numbering system, as well as a common set of course outcomes. The curriculum and course outcomes were initially developed at NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) in Bentonville, AR. The courses are part of an AAS Degree in Business Management with an entrepreneurship option; a technical certificate is included as part of the AAS degree in entrepreneurship. The courses cover introduction to entrepreneurship, funding, opportunity/feasibility analysis, professional selling/advertising and the capstone course, small business management. While initially designed for credit, the courses can be used for non-credit and seminar classes.
The Arkansas Association of Two Year Colleges (AATYC) has taken the lead in the continuing development of an entrepreneurship consortium. Under the leadership of Ed Franklin and Steve Lease, the AATYC facilitates and promotes the vision of a unified curriculum and a group of two-year colleges going forward to foster entrepreneurship and economic development in each area of Arkansas.
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines consortium as “an agreement, combination, or group formed to undertake an enterprise beyond the resources of any one member.” Wikipedia indicates that “a consortium is an association with the objective of participating in a common activity or a pooling of resources for achieving a common purpose.” In late February, 2009, NWACC and the nine other community colleges in the consortium moved beyond their memorandum of understanding and made substantial progress towards becoming a true entrepreneurial consortium.
On February 26th and 27th, North Arkansas College hosted The Arkansas Association of Two Year Colleges Entrepreneurship Conference at the impressive L.E. “Gene” Durand Center on North Arkansas College’s Center Campus. The purpose of the conference was to articulate a vision for boosting entrepreneurial education across all of Arkansas’s 22 two-year colleges and to provide a forum for discussions on how the consortium members should go forward. Tim Putnam of North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City, IA, was the workshop facilitator and gave participants a vision for creating comprehensive entrepreneurship centers on their campuses.
As a result of the conference, the original 10 member schools agreed upon curricula issues and agreed to share resources so each school could fully integrate entrepreneurship into their business programs by the Fall Semester of 2009. Some schools have already begun offering the courses and degree programs, and each of the others will be on board by Fall ‘09.
To help roll out these new courses, NorthWest Arkansas Community College’s Entrepreneurship program, under the direction of Dean Tim Cornelius and George Tanner, lead Entrepreneurship professor, have agreed to work with the other schools in the consortium to assist in providing alternative delivery of courses. This alternative delivery may include webinars and/or compressed interactive video. This arrangement will allow each school to offer a consistent set of entrepreneurship courses and will solve the potential start-up problems of securing qualified instructors or sufficient enrollment numbers at some schools.
The entrepreneurship consortium envisions an interactive collective sharing of resources across the state, with some courses originating from a member school and beamed to any of the others that wish to receive them while others will be self-contained on campuses. This unusual commitment to sharing and collaboration will help each school to focus on its strengths to overcome potential obstacles. NWACC has also offered to share the same arrangement with any of the other non-consortium community colleges in Arkansas. The ultimate goals of the consortium are to add additional members from community colleges not yet committed to the curriculum and to become a resource for students, entrepreneurs, and educators across the state of Arkansas.