As of Tuesday, Nov. 7, Rowan University’s School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship has been ranked #1 in New Jersey, #5 in the Northeast, and #40 in the U.S. for 2024 undergraduate entrepreneurship programs. Rowan has moved up in every category, as last year they were #7 in the Northeast and #44 nationally, and #50 the year prior, meaning that in just a few years they’ve been able to move up 10 ranks.
There are bachelor’s degrees in two programs, one in entrepreneurship and one in engineering entrepreneurship, and one minor, that can be paired with several majors across all of Rowan’s colleges, some of which include marketing, journalism, public relations, music industry, and computer science in addition to several Certificates of Undergraduate Study (CUGS).
The rankings are judged on data collected over the summer and depend on a variety of factors. Alumni success, student enrollment, faculty credentials, accolades from alumni and students, and how much money their respective businesses are making are all things that are up for consideration. Dr. Eric Liguori the founding head of the School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship attributes much of the high ranking to student success in recent years at pitch competitions and in their business ventures.
“There’s, I think, a lot of excitement and a lot of positive things happening on the student front, that’s the part that really gets me excited. So when I see the rankings move up like this, I’m like, ‘Okay, well, I know why,’” said Liguori.
While he’s excited to see that Rowan is moving up, he was adamant about the fact that while the school is providing resources for students to do their best– it’s the students’ drive and motivation that makes this ranking happen.
“It’s hard to feel like, ‘Oh, our work paid off,’ because I don’t feel like it was our work. I feel like it was our students,” said Liguori.
What distinguishes Rowan from other schools, according to Liguori, is its emphasis on diversity and inclusion across the campus from people with all kinds of expertise, backgrounds, and industries. While the school embraces new ventures and startups, the resources and classes also are there to show people that entrepreneurship is for any student– regardless of whether they ever start a business. The Rowan Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE) also has resources, events, and labs that students can attend, regardless of whether they’re enrolled in the academic programs.
“We’re trying to do things like work with students in the entrepreneurship minor, or the certificate programs to make sure that more students across campus just get exposed to entrepreneurship. So when they have an idea, either today or in the future, they know what questions to ask, and they know where to find resources,” said Liguori.
There are two places on campus that students can go to if they have an idea, but need help making it tangible. Studio 231 is a prototyping lab that has 3D printers, whiteboards, and supplies to help students work through ideas for products, apps, and websites. Creatives 230 is another lab that focuses more on helping entrepreneurs and students with branding, graphic design, creative writing, and marketing. Students from all over campus can use these resources, in addition to the students taking entrepreneurship classes.
Ellie Gressman is a senior music industry major taking entrepreneurship and innovation this semester. She just declared a minor after taking the class and explained that the things that she’s learning in classes connect across both departments.
“Having that knowledge of being my own boss if I wanted to potentially start a label or company…the entrepreneurship minor is important to have in my backpack of things,” said Gressman.
Outside of the classroom, there’s a home away from home within the college, and within the RCIE. Students and faculty are willing to help each other, whether that means it’s for a business venture or a class.
“Everybody’s hands-on, everybody’s willing to help you with that one slide deck or that one pitch or that one homework assignment even,” said sophomore Harrison Nastasi, CEO Club president and founder of Bobica Bars. His business just won the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) Global Pitch Competition and last year, took home first place for New Jersey at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA).
Nastasi wasn’t the only student whose business is making a difference outside of the university. Siena Rampulla, CEO and founder of PULLATracker also made the top eight at the CEO Global Competition and won the New Venture Competition last year with a $30K prize. Halfday, a gut healthy iced tea company was featured on Forbes 30 Under 30 and found in Target, Whole Foods, and other stores across the country, was originally ideated and founded at Rowan.
Going forward, Liguori hopes that the entrepreneurial mindset and program become embedded all over the campus, not with the hopes of all of the students becoming CEOS or business owners but to teach them the skills needed to make their own success.
“What we’re teaching, and what we’re trying to train people on… is how to navigate very uncertain environments, how to think creatively and approach problems from different perspectives, and how to piece together disparate resources to work towards some sort of goal,” said Liguori.