A momentous day for entrepreneurship at UNC

It was the day the landscape of innovation and entrepreneurship forever changed at Carolina.

An $18 million gift from three alumni siblings of the Shuford family of Hickory, North Carolina — announced Tuesday afternoon — will more than double the size of the nationally ranked undergraduate entrepreneurship program based in UNC’s College of Arts & Sciences.

A gift from the Shuford family of Hickory, N.C., will more than double the size of the College’s nationally ranked undergraduate entrepreneurship program. (photo by Kristen Chavez)

The gift is the largest single one-time gift by a living individual or family to the College. The minor in entrepreneurship will be named The Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship in the family’s honor.

Against a backdrop of cloudy skies, family and friends joined Chancellor Carol Folt and College Dean Kevin Guskiewicz at the event, held outside Gardner Hall. A tent was decorated with Carolina blue and white balloons, and visitors were given key chains made in one of the BeAM campus makerspaces that were emblazoned with the new name.

The gift will help meet the demand of students who want to enroll in the minor or entrepreneurship courses through the addition of faculty. It will also support twice the number of student internships at entrepreneurial firms worldwide and will encourage problem-based learning throughout the College and University.

As a biologist, Folt said the power and wonder of metamorphosis has always excited her — and that this is a metamorphosis event for UNC, a “leapfrog moment.”

“This is a place where we champion change, and where we work hard to teach persistence in the face of failure and innovation in the face of barriers,” Folt said. “When you take something and it goes through a period of metamorphosis, and it emerges as something completely different, that’s what true transformation is. This will emerge into something even grander than we ever imagined.”

The Shuford gift will create an endowment to support the addition of three entrepreneurs-in-residence and up to four faculty fellows, and will create up to 70 student internships and a lecture series on innovation and entrepreneurship. Funds will also endow the program’s executive director and internship director positions. In partnership with the Shuford Program, the College will provide support for at least three additional full-time faculty members, an entrepreneur-in-residence and an administrative staff position.

The new program will be called the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship. (photo by Kristen Chavez)

“The entrepreneurship program is a good fit with the arts and sciences, and it provides skills so necessary in these days and times,” said alumnus Jim Shuford ’88 (MBA ’92) of Charlotte, CEO of STM Industries.  “It’s a daunting task to prepare these students for the future, so this seemed like such a logical thing to do. We wanted to touch every student with these skills, even if they’re not in the minor.”

Shuford’s brother, Stephen (MBA ‘97), also of Charlotte, CEO of Shurtape Technologies, and sister, Dorothy Shuford Lanier (ABJM ‘93) of Bedford, N.Y., joined him in making the gift to Carolina. The Shufords are a fifth-generation Carolina family. Abel Alexander Shuford Jr., the siblings’ great-grandfather, was a member of the UNC Class of 1900.

The Shuford family has a long legacy of entrepreneurship. Shurtape was created in 1955 as a division of Shuford Mills, a textile firm established in 1880. With more than 800 employees in North Carolina and manufacturing and distribution facilities in eight countries, the company produces adhesive tapes under the Shurtape, Duck, FrogTape, T-Rex and Kip brands.

To close the event, Folt invited the Shuford siblings and Guskiewicz to help her unveil a new sign etched with the College logo and the words “The Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship.”

Created in 2004, Carolina’s minor in entrepreneurship was the signature program of the Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative, established with a $3.5 million grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Open to students in any major, the program helps them transform innovative ideas into viable businesses and nonprofit ventures. The minor has grown exponentially and currently has more than 250 students enrolled. More than 800 students have graduated from Carolina with a minor in entrepreneurship.

Students in the minor follow one of nine tracks — artistic, commercial, computer science, design, media, scientific, social, sport or public health — and must complete an internship.

“When I am on the road talking to alumni or meeting with potential students and their parents, I like to emphasize the things that differentiate Carolina from its peers. The Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship is a shining example of what differentiates us,” Guskiewicz said. “I am thankful to my visionary predecessors at UNC for recognizing how revolutionary it would be to teach the entrepreneurial mindset to students majoring in any discipline — artists, musicians, anthropologists, chemists, social and political scientists, and more.”

In March, The Princeton Review ranked UNC’s undergraduate entrepreneurship programs 14th in the nation (rankings encompass both Kenan-Flagler Business School’s and the College’s entrepreneurship offerings). In 2015, UNC received the Entrepreneurial University Award for excellence in student engagement and curriculum innovation from the Deshpande Foundation.

Read more about the gift.

By Kim Spurr