Entrepreneurship Is Booming Like Never Before At This Small Midwestern B-School

Miami Farmer launched a new entrepreneurship co-major in 2016, removing barriers for students from outside the department to participate. Participate they did: Eight years later, a majority of Entrepreneurship co-majors are pursuing a primary major outside the Farmer School of Business. Miami Farmer photo

The Miami Farmer School of Business in Oxford, Ohio has seen a massive boom in the number of students interested in entrepreneurship since a major redesign and addition of a co-major in the subject. 

It’s a renaissance in the U.S. Midwest — far beyond the expectations of the school’s leadership, and immensely gratifying as well.

“When we redesigned the program, we didn’t anticipate that the demand would increase at the rate that it did,” says Tim Holcomb, professor and Chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship and Director of the John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship. “We opened up the entrepreneurship major with the hope that it would grow, but we didn’t think this kind of expansion was in the cards.” 

Tim Holcomb, courtesy photo

1/4 OF FARMER UNDERGRADS INVOLVED IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP

They introduced their new entrepreneurship co-major in 2016, and as part of the redesign, the department removed barriers for students from outside the department to participate, and participate they did. 

Incredibly, a majority of Entrepreneurship co-majors, 62.2%, are pursuing a primary major outside the Farmer School of Business. 

Last year, almost a quarter of the University’s undergrad population, a good 4,164 students,  took at least one entrepreneurship-themed course, including at least one student from every undergraduate major for the fourth consecutive year. 

Holcomb says that at the Institute, they view entrepreneurship as a liberal art, because it’s not a discipline, it’s a skill. 

“A majority of higher ed still teach entrepreneurship from a textbook,” says Holcomb. “That was one of the biggest differences when we redesigned our program, we eliminated textbooks and we have no exams or midterms.”

Within the co major, they aren’t concerned with testing knowledge comprehension but rather knowledge application. 

‘LEARNING BY DOING,’ KNOWLEDGE THROUGH REPETITION

Today, their courses are designed with practice based immersive learning at the core. “We learn better by doing,” adds Holcomb. We jokingly say we do not spend a lot of time teaching students about entrepreneurship, we teach them to do it. Our goal is for students to retain knowledge through repetition.” 

The co-major calls for just 31 credit hours versus 60, and students can follow one of four tracks – startup and venture capital, social entrepreneurship and impact investing, corporate innovation, and creativity. 

Students can expect to dive deep into digital marketing, entrepreneurial finance, forecasting performance, creativity, and leadership and ethics, and participate in any of their twelve experiential co-curricular programs, including their Techstars® Startup Weekend Miami and the Social Innovation Weekend if they wish. 

Holcomb is busy wearing many hats, and he still finds time to teach the senior capstone, in part because it keeps him tuned in to what’s relevant to what’s currently going on in the industry with the younger students. “This gives me the opportunity to hone my skills and makes him a more effective manager as well.”

In the first four to five years, sharing the news of the program’s redesign was really word of mouth, shares Holcomb. Their department did much collaborating with other colleges within the University. “It’s been a process of creating relationships,” says Holcomb.

The institute added two student managed funds, (RedHawk Ventures and the Social Impact Fund, and partnered with Wharton, among other efforts to give students real world practice. There’s a wide array of competitions that students often participate in as well. 

EXPANDING THEIR SUPPORT TEAM

In the middle of 2020, they grew from an entrepreneurship program with five permanent faculty to an entrepreneurship department with sixteen faculty members. “I have an outstanding team behind me,” he says.  Also adding to their success could be their unparalleled retention rate. “We are very stable in terms of turnover. We’ve only lost one faculty member in the last ten years,” adds Holcomb.

In recent years, Holcomb attributes much of the program’s success to their achievements in receiving high rankings and awards. They’ve earned sixteen consecutive Top 10 ranking among Public Universities in The Princeton Review, and the Entrepreneur Magazine ranking of the “Top 50 Best Undergrad Programs for Entrepreneurs,” earning No. 7 overall globally and and No. 1 in Ohio in 2024, which is the program’s highest global ranking ever.

What’s most rewarding for Holcomb is the impact his students have post-grad. “For me personally, I get the greatest joy from seeing a graduate get the job he or she wanted or start his or her own company.” 

His graduates from years 2013 to 2022 have launched 360 venture-backed companies and counting that have raised a good $535 million in funding.

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