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Community members reflect on Shuford program almost 20 years after its creation

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UNC seniors Nya Patton and Isabella Casispose in front of Wilson Library on Oct.8, 2023. Casis is a program ambassador and Payton participated in the program.

For two decades, UNC has offered students the ability to complete a minor in entrepreneurship outside of the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

The Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship was originally founded in 2003 via a $3 million grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Program, which aims to teach students entrepreneurial skills, is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, with 33 majors being represented across the minor. 

“There’s a times question of 'Can entrepreneurs be taught or are they just kind of born that way?' and I think it's a combination of both,” Joe Colopy, a UNC alumnus who received a Master’s of Business Administration in 1999, said. Colopy works within the Triangle's venture capital industry.

In May 2017, an $18 million donation by fifth-generation alumni members of the Shuford family — the largest single monetary gift in the history of the College of Arts and Sciences at the time — allowed for the program to grow significantly. 

A few months after its expansion, Bernard Bell was instated as executive director of the Shuford Program and remains so today.

“I think Bernard, the director, is always so involved," Isabella Casis, a senior undergraduate student at UNC and Shuford ambassador, said. "I genuinely believe he knows every single person in the minor."

Since 2017, the number of students in the program has expanded from 150 to 515, and two new full-time staff members have been hired. 

More than 800 students graduated with a minor in entrepreneurship in the first 13 years of the Program's existence. Since the gift, the Program has turned out almost 900 more graduates.

Shuford is an appealing alternative to Kenan-Flagler for many students who don’t necessarily want to commit themselves to the business or economics major, but still have a strong interest in entrepreneurship, Casis said.

She said the ambassadors are trying to expand the Program to students involved in a broad variety of majors, not only those focused on economics. She also said no prior experience is needed for the Program.

"You learn everything and all the soft skills that you need for it in the minor," she said.

Part of the reason for Shuford’s diversity, Bell said in a video introducing the Program, is that a group of students spanning across majors will be able to develop more user-friendly solutions than a group of students from only one discipline would.

“I think it being a minor, or something that you complement with something else, is kind of the key,” Colopy said. “The most interesting innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits are because people are connecting the dots with two different things.”

The Shuford Program also offers a unique approach to completing a minor at UNC through "Shuford Away."

The study abroad program partners with Honors Carolina to give students the opportunity to complete both their internship and required classes in-person in London or online in other countries.

However, it isn’t required to be an Honors student to participate in the abroad experience.

“Shuford Away actually can be anywhere in the world,” Nya Patton, a UNC student who completed her entrepreneurship minor in London, said.

Alumni and donor funding, such as the $18 million donation, make up 94 percent of the program's budget. According to Shuford’s website, this allows members of the program to apply for internships, study away experiences and professional development opportunities.

Casis said the program is different from any other minor on campus because it's a community of people — not just students taking classes. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the 2017 donation from members of the Shuford family as the largest in University history. This error has since been corrected. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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