Published in Economic Development

Backed by $6.5 million in donations, WMU launches new business center

BY Thursday, November 21, 2019 09:28am

KALAMAZOO — Business leaders and philanthropists gave $6.5 million to Western Michigan University for what’s known as the Center for Principled Leadership and Business Strategy.

The new center led by two faculty members at WMU’s Haworth College of Business will provide undergraduate and graduate students with business mentors, large-scale consulting projects and an investment fund for the acquisition of small business startups by MBA students.

Edward Montgomery COURTESY PHOTO

Seed money for the Center for Principled Leadership and Business Strategy comes from Haworth Inc. Chairman Emeritus Dick Haworth, Greenleaf Trust Chairman William Johnston, the Menard family behind the Eau Claire, Wisc.-based Menard Inc. home improvement retail chain, and the Charles Koch Foundation.

“We are truly grateful to these donors for partnering with us to develop the next generation of business leaders,” WMU President Edward Montgomery said in a statement. “Their philanthropy enables Western Michigan University to help students and business leaders harness their passions and beliefs to change the way we think about profit and purpose through new and exciting education, research and outreach activities.”

Among the center’s planned programming are projects involving business leaders and students enrolled in a new leadership and business strategy co-major and minor degree program who will collaborate with faculty to “solve problems for executives on increasing profit and purpose,” according to an announcement from WMU. The center also will conduct research projects on leadership, strategy, and “meaningful work and leading with purpose, relevant to both academic leaders and industry.”

Graduate students also can take a course on acquiring small businesses that for select students includes capital investment from alumni to buy and run a small business.

“Businesses are successful when they have deeply rooted values,” Dick Haworth stated. “Students today want to marry purpose with profit, and this center will offer Western Michigan students the opportunity to contemplate how they, as tomorrow’s leaders, can do that.”

Doug Lepisto, an assistant professor of management, and Derrick McIver, associate professor of management, serve as co-directors of the center.

WMU formed the center as “traditional notions of shareholder-only business models” and “traditional notions of higher education” are becoming obsolete,” McIver stated.

“We aspire to set a new standard for business education and are innovating to impact as many people as possible as deeply as possible,” McIver said. “The most important thing we can pass on is enabling others to pursue their purpose and passion in ways that help improve others’ lives.”

Johnston said the new center “has touch points that will cause talented, aspiring students to choose WMU.”

“It provides differentiating experiences and lifts up our West Michigan business community. This will be a game changer, and I hope others lean in to engage,” he said.

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