Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship receives $60,000 grant from Coleman Foundation

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March 21, 2007

When Brad Matuska talks to students at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University about the challenges of starting, marketing and expanding a business, he isn’t standing in front of a classroom.

Thanks to a $60,000 grant from the Coleman Foundation, students at CSB/SJU – as well as undergraduate students from around the country – will see and hear Matuska discuss the challenges he faced as an entrepreneur in Cold Spring, Minn., in a multi-media format that appeals to today’s college student.

The grant allows the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship at CSB/SJU to produce seven new cases – known as EduCases – on entrepreneurs’ businesses through the EduCase Enterprise at the center. EduCases are unique, organizers say, in that each includes a DVD presentation of the entrepreneur and entrepreneurial venture packaged with print material and a detailed teachers guide.

The first EduCase was produced on Mississippi Topsoils, a composting company that uses poultry and forest products to create premium organic soils under the trade name “Soil Essentials.” The company, started in 1999, is co-owned by Matuska, an SJU alumnus. The case was written by CSB/SJU associate professor of management Virginia Arthur, and was pilot-tested in CSB/SJU classes during spring and fall semesters, 2006.

Two new cases are in production, and additional production work will continue for 18 months (three semesters). The EduCases will be written by CSB/SJU faculty and feature private businesses and nonprofit enterprises from the Midwest demonstrating successful entrepreneurship led by alums and friends of both colleges. One case will even feature a campus-based coffee shop started by CSB/SJU students.

EduCases are designed for use with undergraduate students in a range of academic disciplines, including biology, theater, English, environmental studies and management. The multi-media cases include video interviews, Web site replicas and virtual tours of facilities provided in DVD format for student and classroom use. The visual content is augmented by written materials providing additional information, class and team discussion guides and teaching notes.

“The EduCase format is more like a documentary with accompanying story and discussion guides and assignment questions already built in,” said Terri Barreiro, director of the McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship, when asked what makes the format attractive to today’s students.

“We estimate that, on average, 25 courses a year at CSB/SJU will be using EduCases, and over 100 courses in other colleges will, too,” Barreiro said.

The grant’s funds support a part-time project manager/scriptwriter, faculty writer stipends, and a part of the costs of professional multi-media production of EduCases. The program is intended to be self-sufficient by 2009, covering all of its costs from sales to classrooms across the country. Those sales will include published books with a written narrative and a DVD that will sell for $25 for each EduCase, Barreiro said.

The Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship, established in 2004, is a campus resource that bridges relationships among and between CSB/SJU students, faculty, alumnae/i and community members to enhance their entrepreneurial spirit so they can achieve their dreams. The center is named for Twin Cities executive and philanthropist Donald McNeely, a long-time benefactor of CSB/SJU. 

The Coleman Foundation is a private, independent grantmaker focusing primarily on the Midwest. Foundation resources support cancer care, treatment and research; disability services; and education – with a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship. In 1981, the foundation began to question why individuals are encouraged to “get a job” rather than to create one. Since that time, the foundation has committed over $38 million to promote the option of self-employment, improve the quality of entrepreneurship education, and help create a new generation of business owners.