March 07, 2014

U.S. Assoc. for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Gets a Dose of Texas Hospitality from Neeley

More than 500 entrepreneurship educators from around the world came to Fort Worth as the Neeley School hosted the annual USASBE conference.  

The “Cowboys, Culture and Creativity” conference combined an opening-night reception at Billy Bob’s Texas with workshops, research, learning journeys, keynote speakers and awards. Those who attended lauded the event as “friendly,” helpful,” “thought-provoking,” “unique” and “phenomenal.”

This is the first time the annual event has been hosted by a school as presenting sponsor.

“I’ve been involved with USASBE since 1997, and I don’t remember a conference that was as well managed, well organized and meaningful for our members. To a great extent that was a result of TCU’s involvement,” Pat Dickson, USASBE president and associate dean of undergraduate programs at Wake Forest, said. “From the beginning it was clear that TCU was determined to make it an exceptional conference.”

Conference Chair Becky Gann said that the Neeley School team of Ray Smilor, Brad Hancock, Ann McDonald and Robin Shelander “brought to the table innovation and renewed energy that made for a dynamic conference.”

The conference gathered more than 500 entrepreneurship educators from 13 countries representing a variety of disciplines.

Keynote speakers included Nancy Richards and Lisa Barrentine of First Preston HT, who shared their entrepreneurial journey. Dickson noted that the presentation by Richards and Barrentine was exceptional. “They were so enthusiastic about their company and the process of entrepreneurship. They really engaged the group,” he said.

A panel of deans including O. Homer Erekson, Neeley School of Business at TCU; Rachel Croson, College of Business at UT-Arlington; Donna De Carolis, Close School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel; Finley Graves, College of Business at UNT; and Terry Maness, Hankamer School of Business at Baylor; discussed the future of entrepreneurial education.

Jon Carr, Keith Hmieleski, Ray Smilor, Michael Sherrod and Brad Hancock participated in and lead workshops, panel discussions, sessions and tracks with their peers. Young entrepreneurs Adam Blake, David Grubbs, Ashley Murphree, Valerie Lindenmuth and Matthew Hinson inspired with their stories. Michael Morris, former president of USASBE, shared his insights as one of the pioneers in curricular innovation and experiential learning in entrepreneurship education.

Learning journeys into the Fort Worth community provided hands-on encounters to learn more about entrepreneurship initiatives in the city.

Learning Journey 1 visited the Neeley School to hear from students, faculty and advisors about the development of the entrepreneurship program. Learning Journey 2 visited the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum to see how Jim and Gloria Austin developed the social venture’s mission, vision and strategy. Learning Journey 3 visited TECH Fort Worth to witness the role an incubator plays in enhancing an environment for innovation. Learning Journey 4 visited TCU’s College of Fine Arts to see how professors Suki John and Sally Packard, together with entrepreneur-in-residence Michael Sherrod from Neeley, incorporate entrepreneurship into arts classes.

The conference included a workshop presented by the nationally famous, Fort Worth-based improvisational group Four Day Weekend. Dickson said that the conference was abuzz with talk of how the troupe presented their own entrepreneurial journey through humor.

“It was clear your team helped identify and bring a great mix of value-added speakers to the conference program,” wrote Mark Schenkel, associate professor of entrepreneurship at Belmont in a letter to Dean Erekson.