USASBE banquetsaddle

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

What do you get when you combine an opening-night reception at Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky tonk, with entrepreneurship workshops, research papers, learning journeys, keynote speakers and prestigious awards?

March 07,  2014

By Elaine Cole

Those who attended the USASBE annual conference in Fort Worth used words like “friendly,” helpful,” “thought-provoking,” “unique” and “phenomenal.”

“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. “Dean Erekson was incredibly supportive of this new model (of having a school as host and presenting sponsor). From the beginning it was clear that TCU was determined to make it an exceptional conference.”

The conference gathered more than 500 entrepreneurship educators from 13 countries representing a variety of disciplines, as well as 32 exhibitors.

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.” 

Keynote speakers included Nancy Richards, chairman, and Lisa Barrentine, CEO, of First Preston HT, who shared their entrepreneurial journey. Young entrepreneurs Adam Blake, David Grubbs, Ashley Murphree, Valerie Lindenmuth and Matthew Hinson inspired with their stories. And Michael Morris, former president of USASBE, shared his insights as one of the pioneers in curricular innovation and experiential learning in entrepreneurship education.

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.

Deans 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.

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 Neeley 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, incorporate entrepreneurship into arts classes.

Neeley entrepreneurship faculty and staff participated in and lead several workshops, panel discussions, sessions and tracks with their peers, including Jon Carr, Keith Hmieleski, Ray Smilor, Michael Sherrod and Brad Hancock.

The conference also 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.

Numerous Neeley faculty, staff, students and supporters volunteered their time and talent. “Their energy and enthusiasm to show off their school and home town resulted in a top-notch program,” said Brad Hancock, director of the Neeley Entrepreneurship Center.