Our desire is to build strong entrepreneurial ecosystems locally as well as across regions and the state. ACEI not only focuses on the students attending the various colleges on the Knoxville campus, but we also reach beyond Knoxville into our sister campuses across the state by collaborating on joint projects that develop entrepreneurial talent. We also work externally with regional partners in Knoxville, government partners in Nashville, and colleagues across the state for both “for profit” and “social cause” organizations.
Our mission is to foster an entrepreneurial culture at the university and across the state by developing student skills, providing experiential learning opportunities, and connecting students with mentors and resources that can help them successfully start and grow new businesses.
The UT College of Business Administration recognized the need for educating future entrepreneurs in 2008 when the college was re-evaluating its strategic initiatives. A “best-in-class” study of university entrepreneurship centers was conducted in the summer, with the actual center being approved by the university in June 2009.
The creation of the center led to an expansion of the entrepreneurship concentration in the MBA program and the establishment of an undergraduate entrepreneurship collateral in the college. The coursework in place at both the undergraduate and graduate levels equips our students with skills to identify business opportunities, foster creativity, and solve complex problems. These skills are necessary for launching new businesses, but also can be utilized in other careers, such as in business consulting, social causes, or corporate organizations that promote an entrepreneurial approach to management.
In 2010, the center received a generous contribution from the Anderson Family, which accelerated the growth of the center’s programs. At that time, the center was renamed the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI).
Today, in addition to its commitment to academic excellence and experiential learning, the ACEI conducts workshops and business plan competitions, connects students with mentors, and provides hundreds of hours each semester of student engagements with social cause organizations and “for-profit businesses”. The ACEI also provides a year-long certificate program that strengthens social mission organizations and those who lead them (Consortium for Social Enterprise Effectiveness).
Through 2011, ACEI-mentored students have started over 50 ventures.