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Entrepreneurship grant finds way into science, arts at UNCP


A grant from the Lemelson Foundation is supporting diverse programs at UNC Pembroke.

Thanks to an $8,000 grant, microscopic nematodes pose for photographs and swim across computer screens in a biotechnology lab.

Music professors Dr. Larry Arnold and Prof. Aaron Vandermeer are gaining support for their music business degree program.

Prof. Vandermeer, Dr. Mike Menefee and Dr. Arnold presented a session on UNCP’s entrepreneurship programs at the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship titled “Entrepreneurship in the Arts and Arts in Entrepreneurship.”  The national meeting was held in January at Hilton Head Island, S.C.  Their travel was paid for by funds from the Lemelson Foundation grant.

“We’ve taken the Lemelson grant and made it grow thanks to a match from Provost Bill Gash in the Office of Academic Affairs,” said Dr. Mike Menefee, the Thomas Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at UNCP. “Our goals are to spread entrepreneurship training across campus and the region.”

In the Biotechnology Center, Dr. Len Holmes is working with undergraduates like Floyd Inman, who is studying the role of beneficial nematodes in agriculture. A Leica DM750 research microscope and camera were purchased from matching grant funds and are now essential pieces of laboratory equipment.  The new microscope is invaluable to his research, said Dr. Holmes, director of UNCP’s Biotechnology Center.

“This microscope allows us to do microbiology,” he said. “It’s another tool that gives the Biotechnology Center a more complete inventory of scientific tools to do our work.”

Inman, who is the 2011 Farm Bureau Scholar, said it is useful.  “We’ve customized it to do phased contrast microscopy,” he said. “We can view internal organs of nematodes as well as exteriors.”  In the center’s lobby are three posters that Inman produced to display his work for the public and at research conferences.

“With the high quality images we collect, we are able to show our undergraduate research,” Dr. Holmes said. “The microscope is a significant addition to our arsenal; we use it daily.”

Far from the biotechnology lab, Dr. Arnold, Dr. Menefee and Vandermeer are working together to help UNCP’s music majors funnel their creativity into businesses.

“Traditionally, business programs, and in particular, entrepreneurship studies have not mixed with liberal arts,” Dr. Arnold and Vandermeer stated in their presentation.

UNCP offers to all students (except Social Work majors) an entrepreneurship certificate program, a minor in entrepreneurship for all non-business majors and a concentration in entrepreneurship in the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree program. In the MBA program there is an entrepreneurship track.

Students from 18 different majors in business, education and arts and sciences have enrolled in the various programs.             Dr. Arnold and Vandermeer designed and implemented a music-specific entrepreneurship program at UNCP.

“Our efforts to make entrepreneurship courses and programs available to all students have created new opportunities for students as well as new business possibilities for our region and state,” the professors said. “Now, business students can pursue courses in other areas of interest, and students in the arts and non-business disciplines have the opportunity to pursue their dreams of starting businesses in their major areas.”

For Dr. Menefee, who wrote the grant and acquired matching funds from UNCP’s Office of Academic Affairs, it is a good start.

“Entrepreneurship programs are taking off here thanks, first and foremost, to Jim Thomas who founded the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship,” Dr. Menefee said. “The Lemelson grant is a real feather in our cap, but thanks also go to UNCP’s administrators and faculty who see the value of what we are doing.”

Headquartered in Portland, Ore., the Lemelson Foundation funds programs to cultivate and nurture invention and entrepreneurship.

For more information about entrepreneurship at UNCP, please contact the Thomas Center at 910.775.4208.