Calvin University’s commitment to preparing future Christian business leaders reaches back over a century. In 1920, the college established an economics department and began building a solid track record for offering majors and coursework responsive to business industry needs and student interests. Today, Calvin University’s School of Business boasts two master’s programs, eight undergraduate majors, and five minors. Fall 2023 marked the inaugural semester for the two newest majors, entrepreneurship and business analytics. A minor in information systems is also now offered.

Ingenuity meets Christian ethics

Entrepreneurship is on the rise globally. Yet, the 2019 edition of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report (GEM) identified a striking paradox. GEM, which has been tracking the state of entrepreneurship worldwide since 1999, found that although a high percentage of 18 to 24-year-olds expressed interest in starting their own businesses, they also had the lowest confidence in their ability to become entrepreneurs and the highest fear of failure. Calvin’s School of Business hopes to close that gap for Gen Z with its new entrepreneurship major.

According to Professor Peter Snyder, who helped develop the new major, “There’s an ecosystem of entrepreneurship in West Michigan, and we draw a lot of those students. Many international students come from families who own businesses. Even those with a missional mindset are asking things like, ‘How can I pursue an opportunity that will bring people together to hear the gospel?’ Maybe starting a coffee shop, for example.”

Entrepreneurship brings a new element to Calvin’s already robust School of Business offerings, which have primarily focused on traditional pathways to various business fields. Now, with new courses such as “Design Thinking” and “Social Entrepreneurship,” the entrepreneurship major affirms and supports the expanding ways businesses can successfully launch and operate in a global economy. A two-semester practicum also offers students hands-on, real-world experience, building their confidence to enter new markets or break new ground.

But the new major isn’t only about innovation. The program’s designers believe successful business ventures center people and their needs. “Communities, institutions, businesses, and government all need to adapt to the constantly changing environment around us. Entrepreneurship is a way of helping us think about and provide tools and methods to lead that change,” Snyder said.

He views entrepreneurship as an important gateway to connecting students with the needs of their communities. “You can act as an entrepreneur in lots of different contexts. It’s about pursuing opportunity or making change happen whether it’s in business or working with people. Entrepreneurship touches all aspects of life. All kinds of industries.”

The major also partners well with Calvin’s new Startup Garage, an initiative begun last year by alumnus Jon Ver Lee ’08. The program, open to all majors, helps students start and scale their own businesses, offering mentorship, seed money, and community around their efforts. It’s one more way for students to gain hands-on experience in a supported environment, as they work through the associated risks, challenges, and benefits of beginning and running successful businesses.

Bridging business and technology

A second new major in business analytics teaches students to leverage data-science, information-technology, and artificial intelligence to solve business problems, such as coordinating large development projects for companies.

“Our program is responsive to industry needs, preparing students to become leaders who can effectively bring together the skills, talents, and perspectives of others in business, information technology, and data science,” said information systems professor Patrick Bailey, who helped design the major. Bailey is especially enthusiastic about the major’s holistic approach to the field of analytics.

“Executives in business need to make decisions based on billions of rows of data every minute of every day. The courses form a comprehensive foundation for future analysts who need to be technically savvy, strong communicators, and understand how and where to find value.”

Bailey cites a course in negotiation as a good example of how the program does more than teach technical skills. The course was developed by assistant professor Philip Johnson, who also helped launch the supply chain management major last fall. “Negotiation skills are incredibly significant skills for an analyst who often must define and implement a plan of action as well as engage multiple parties in solidifying a consensus,” Bailey said.

The program's strength centers on its academic excellence as well as its applicability to real business opportunities. Moreover, its faith-centered approach teaches students to ethically leverage data with honesty and integrity. “The faith perspective provides the most important foundation to any work done in this area: finding the truth,” Bailey said.

Works well with others

Bailey’s commitment to the ethical and honest use of data also applies to the launch of the new information systems minor, which teaches students the fundamentals of both business and computing. According to the developed proposal for the minor, “Every organization, big or small, needs systems to track, control, and steward their resources and relationships with stakeholders.” The minor, designed to work alongside any of Calvin’s business programs, also pairs well with other department majors, such as computer science and statistics. “Regardless of their major, any student will gain a sense of how to leverage information technology within the context of most typical corporate settings,” Bailey said.

Snyder’s perspective reflects a larger commitment to growing the reach of Calvin’s School of Business both within and beyond the university. It also closely aligns with Calvin’s Vision 2030 to “become a Christian liberal arts university with an expanded global influence,” one that prepares students to act as agents of renewal in every career pursuit.