CSB/SJU Opens Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship


Entrepreneur center to open

Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal
Nicole Garrison-Sprenger, staff reporter
Aug. 13, 2004 print edition

A pair of central Minnesota institutions are turning to Twin Cities business executives for help with a new venture designed to turn college students of today into the small-business owners of tomorrow.

Using money from an endowment established a few years ago by Donald McNeely, former CEO of industrial real estate firm Space Center Inc. in St. Paul, The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University (CSB/SJU) in Collegeville have created the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship.

Unlike programs designed for graduate students or members of the business community -- such as the University of St. Thomas' John M. Morrison Center for Entrepreneur-ship -- the McNeely Center is mainly for undergraduate students. Led by Terri Barreiro, former executive with Greater Twin Cities United Way, the center will enlist the help of Twin Cities area business executives.

"The center's role is to bring resources on campus, to bring alumni back, find internship [opportunities] and site visit [opportunities] so students can really see and experience what an entrepreneurial environment is really like," said Barreiro, executive director of the center. "There's a wonderful pool of people who have already been generous with their time and willingness to be available to do whatever is important to help this center and help the students at St. John's and St. Ben's move into this arena."

Margrette Newhouse, a former executive at M&I Bank in Minnesota and current CSB/SJU faculty member, is a 1988 graduate of the CSB. (See story below.)

"I will be assisting more with my business connections in the Twin Cities," Newhouse said. "But I might help in other ways, such as with banking and coaching."

The project's centerpiece will be a two-year program for 12 students taught by Paul Marsnik, who had an even larger role in founding the center. During that three-course program, students will have access to at least 10 mentors from business and nonprofit sectors. They will design and start their own ventures.

This kind of program seems to be in great demand by undergraduates, said Harry Sapienza, chair of the Center of Entrepreneurial Studies at the Carlson School of Management, explaining that the undergraduate entrepreneur club is the largest student group at the Carlson School.

"One of the things that going for a set of courses like this can show someone is that it can be done," he said. "It's not necessarily a magical or a mystical thing. Every company is actually started by someone at some point."

While undergraduates will be the center's focus, organizers hope its influence will extend further into the community. For example, alumni of the schools will have access to the Center Mentoring Program, through which executives from the private and nonprofit sector meet individually with people. The center is also in the process of developing focused training sessions for specific audiences in the community at large. Also, a variety of partner institutions have expressed interest in offering training to those who live and work in Central Minnesota.

Students may also take advantage of the Center Mentors Program and a 'virtual business incubator' program that will give them access to professional advice on business plans, legal issues and financial planning.

Said Newhouse, "Encouraging this [entrepreneurial] spirit early in life not only will do great things for business, but for nonprofits and the community at large."