The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine, released their 2021 rankings of best schools for entrepreneurship studies and University of Miami was ranked 13 in the country. This marks the first time in UM’s entrepreneurship program’s 33 year history that it has been ranked in the top 50.
“There has always been awesome entrepreneurship here,” said Michael Wilson the entrepreneurship program director and management lecturer. “It’s just been trumped by the great weather and bikinis.”
The ranking is the result of a concerted effort by Wilson and his team to get numbers to prove how successful the program has become. Although The Princeton Review does not specify the exact formula in which the rankings are created, they do provide some of the metrics they take into account. Amongst them are percentage of faculty, staff and alumni who operate their own business, number of mentorship programs, business competitions and grants for entrepreneurial studies.
“There’s a lot of little nuances and pieces that we aggregated to tell the whole story,” Wilson said. Wilson collected numbers from a range of places, including purchasing a subscription to Crunchbase to track down alumni who are running businesses. “We did our due diligence.”
One of the criteria where UM’s program excels is instructors that have operated or operate a business.
“We are practicing what we preach. We have all made payroll,” Wilson said, meaning that all the instructors have successfully run their own businesses. “We are more like facilitators and coaches than professorial.”
One of those facilitators is Susy Alvarez-Diaz. A UM alumnus, Alvarez-Diaz worked at Hewlett-Packard before opening her own public relations and consulting business in 2002. Simultaneously for the last 13 years, she has also worked various roles in the entrepreneurship department, including program director and now a senior lecturer.
“Our faculty are entrepreneurs. We are on the front line of what is going on in business right now,” Alvarez-Diaz said. The program that the department currently teaches was developed by Alvarez-Diaz, who explained that when she first came back to UM, the program was previously just a few classes under the management umbrella.
“Over the years we have built a true full fledged program, from having advisory programs, to our business competition to our angel fund,” Alvarez-Diaz said.
Unlike finance or math, entrepreneurship isn’t teachable in the traditional textbook format, which is why such an emphasis has been put on having successful business people teach the classes.
“I can teach engineering a lot easier because it’s step by step,” Wilson said, who holds an engineering degree. “Our faculty are invested in teaching something that is very hard to teach.”
Another unique element about the entrepreneurship program is its hands on approach to teaching. Students have the opportunity to work with startups, listen to successful business people from the community who come in to speak and work in teams to give business pitches to investors.
“The hands on experience gave me the tools to start my own business,” said Daniele Negrini, a junior majoring in business technology and minoring in entrepreneurship. Negrini placed second in last year’s business competition and used the winnings to jump start her business Eurekamatch, a networking app focused on students. “The department does a very good job of giving you the tools to go out and there and succeed.”
Anna Cook, a senior majoring in entrepreneurship, says the program was the reason she chose to attend UM.
“I knew I wanted to be in business,” Cook said, but she wasn’t sure in what capacity.
For the majority of her life, Cook intended to go to University of North Carolina Chapel-Hill, which she had grown up down the street from. Accepted and ready to attend, her plans changed when she found UM’s entrepreneurship program.
“When I visited campus, I felt like they supported entrepreneurship all the way,” she said. “I knew it was where I wanted to be.”
Cook, who graduates in December, has been grateful for the hands on experience the program provided and the unique teaching styles, which contained a minimal amount of the traditional textbook slide lecturers.
In one of her classes, Cook had the opportunity to work with a startup and develop a plan for them to get their product into Target and Whole Foods. Since she worked with them, the company has implemented the plans she worked on and are now sold in Whole Foods and fast tracked to be sold in Target. Building off this experience, in the months since, Cook was inspired to start up her own marketing company that works with other startups.
“I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world,” she said.
Although, everyone is proud of how far the entrepreneurship program has come, students and faculty speak of greater goals for the program.
“I have my eyes on you Babson and Michigan,” said Wilson of the schools ranked in front of UM.
To make the program more prominent and continue to climb in the rankings, Wilson wants to get other colleges in UM involved and connected with the program.
“It’s not just the business school, we have great programs that are happening, engineering school, the Frost school,” he said. Although the entrepreneurship classes are inside the business school, any student is able to pursue an entrepreneurship minor and take courses within the program. “Instead of being insular and siloed school by school, we have to tell the story of one U cohesively.”
Alvarez-Diaz hopes to see UM build a place for aspiring entrepreneurs to meet and come together from across campuses. Something that some universities have, but UM is lacking one. Like Wilson, she is constantly adjusting her class and changing the program.
“I believe that our program is a living breathing thing that is constantly evolving, in the center of a burgeoning entrepreneurial program in the crossroads of the Americas.”
Featured Image by Jared Lennon, Photo & Visuals Editor.