WSU Magazine Fall 2012 : Page 16
IGNITING Entrepreneurial Kimberly Jensen, university communications B wsu magazine | FALL 2012 laming vengeful voodoo spirits, heartbroken mothers in a Brazilian jungle bury their dead children, many before their first birthdays. The actual culprit is an open sewer spreading disease throughout the village. Facing this and other devastating dilemmas as Peace Corps volunteers in 1969, Alan and Jeanne Hall , newlyweds and recent graduates of Weber State College, work alongside villagers, sleep on a straw mattress and shower in cold water collected from tropical rain. Amid the tragedy of a killer epidemic, crippling poverty and demoralizing joblessness, Alan Hall discovers a new passion— solving problems. 16
Blaming vengeful voodoo spirits, heartbroken mothers in a Brazilian jungle bury their dead children, many before their first birthdays. The actual culprit is an open sewer spreading disease throughout the village.<br /> <br /> Facing this and other devastating dilemmas as Peace Corps volunteers in 1969, Alan and Jeanne Hall, newlyweds and recent graduates of Weber State College, work alongside villagers, sleep on a straw mattress and shower in cold water collected from tropical rain. Amid the tragedy of a killer epidemic, crippling poverty and demoralizing joblessness, Alan Hall discovers a new passion— solving problems.<br /> <br /> “By wanting to provide meaningful solutions that would make the whole world better off, I discovered my entrepreneurial spirit,” says Alan. More than 40 years after the couple’s stint in Brazil, their commitment to unraveling obstacles through opportunity continues with a pledge of $3.5 million to support WSU’s new Alan and Jeanne Hall Global Entrepreneurship Program, encouraging Northern Utah’s entrepreneurial spirit and enhancing the university’s international influence.<br /> <br /> <b>PATHWAY TO PEACE</b><br /> <br /> The Halls envision the program starting on campus, moving into the community and then growing nationally and globally. “By giving students the chance to create wonderful companies and jobs, they give back by helping others,” says Jeanne.<br /> <br /> Offering a minor in entrepreneurship, the program will begin accepting students in the fall of 2013. One of the most exciting components of the program will be student startup competitions, where budding entrepreneurs, whose projects have progressed from idea to implementation, will compete for substantial cash prizes. The Halls hope the prize money will sustain students as they prepare to approach professional investors.<br /> <br /> <b>PROVIDING A COMPETITIVE EDGE</b> <br /> <br /> “Having an intense focus on student startups along with a worldwide vision will distinguish WSU’s program from other programs throughout the state,” explains Jeff Steagall, dean of the John B. Goddard School of Business & Economics. “We want to have our students launch more new companies than anyone else,” he says.<br /> <br /> “Our program is unique in that it will provide students with real-world experience, not just classroom instruction,” says Alex Lawrence, vice provost for Innovation & Economic Development, and self-described serial entrepreneur. “Students will come in with business ideas, learn how to test them, grow them, finance them, and then hit the ground running.” <br /> <br /> The entrepreneurship program is designed to appeal to students across all disciplines. “There are so many creative people on campus who would benefit from the skills of an entrepreneur,” says Steagall. “By taking courses in this program, a law student could gain the skills needed to start his own practice, or a photography student could learn about branding and marketing.” <br /> <br /> The Bill Child Startup Center, located in the Wattis Business building, will serve as the physical hub of the new program. Resident entrepreneurs and potential investors will mingle with students who want to learn the secrets of translating bright ideas into thriving companies.<br /> <br /> London Pierce, an accounting major and member of the Weber Entrepreneurs Association, hopes to connect with creative and free-thinking people who can help launch her wedding business idea. “My dad owns two businesses in Ogden and has always encouraged me to go into business for myself,” says Pierce. “I went into accounting at WSU because I enjoy numbers. That knowledge, in conjunction with training from mentors and business leaders, will help me run my own successful enterprise one day.” <br /> <br /> <b>WORKING TOGETHER</b> <br /> <br /> Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell says the community is ripe with talent and promotes student access to leaders and resources. “If you peel back the layers of our history, Ogden has always fostered an entrepreneurial spirit and encouraged independence,” he says. “Ogden is a nonconformist town with so much energy and an eclectic history. Our midsize community, access to resources, low cost of living, and universitytrained workforce make Ogden fertile ground for business.” <br /> <br /> Ideas are plentiful in the minds of all entrepreneurs. “What sets the successful ones apart is their willingness to risk time, money and relationships,” says Alan. “It takes a unique, persistent personality that never gives up.”<br /> <br /> The program at WSU will contribute to Alan’s five-year goal of adding a million new jobs as risk-taking business builders hire new employees. “In the last 30 years, 40 million new jobs have been created by entrepreneurs willing to take risks and build companies,” he claims. “There will be businesses that succeed and businesses that fail, but entrepreneurship is a lifelong journey, not a one-time event. Students will learn from their failures, figure out how to do it correctly and move forward.”<br /> <br /> <b>OPPORTUNITIES HERE AND ABROAD</b> <br /> <br /> Given Alan and Jeanne’s desire to improve economic conditions around the world, helping international students create startups in their own countries is an integral part of WSU’s entrepreneurship program. The Goddard School intends to form global partnerships, beginning with Shanghai Normal University’s startup competition during spring semester of 2013.<br /> <br /> “Ideally, this competition will lead to new businesses and new jobs in China,” says Steagall, who sees the long-term benefits of international partnerships. “When we begin to understand the entrepreneurial culture in other countries, we start asking questions about other sociological differences that will help us gain a deeper understanding of each other.” <br /> <br /> Alan and Jeanne Hall have come a long way since enduring jungle life and making 11 cents an hour, but their dedication to solving problems for people around the globe remains intense. “It takes creative individuals willing to take risks to make change,” Alan says.<br /> <br /> Quick to point out that he, Jeanne, their six children and their spouses are all Weber State Wildcats, Alan says he feels deeply indebted to WSU and holds the institution in the highest regard. “I truly believe the time will come when the eyes of the world will look toward Ogden and recognize WSU’s entrepreneurial program as driving the economy both locally and worldwide.”
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