The Union of Town and Gown

University of Georgia-Athens and Athens, Ga.


University of Georgia-Athens and Athens, Ga.
City population:
103,238
UGA student population: 34,180
University employees: 10,057
Metro area small businesses: 3,573
Nearest major airport: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (91 miles)

Many entrepreneurship programs flaunt their success by pointing out the number of degrees they award or the number of business owners who attend lectures. At UGA, only one number matters. "We are singularly focused on launching businesses," says Chris Hanks, director of the university's Terry College of Business. "We want to know-are they producing revenue, and what kind of impact are they having on the community?" Students in Hank's undergraduate class and all MBA students are required to launch a revenue-producing business. The university also promotes campus-wide participation with programs like "UGA's Next Top Entrepreneur," an American Idol-style competition with an angel-funding payoff. But some of the greatest effects are being made off campus: Hanks and his staff travel throughout Georgia providing low-cost advice to entrepreneurs through programs such as UGA Startups and a yearlong "Mastering Entrepreneurship" program that explains entrepreneurialism from soup to nuts. Inspiring people to launch new ventures is Hanks' singular goal. "I always ask myself, 'What can we do best?' That's launch businesses," Hanks says. "As long as I have influence, that will remain the focus at UGA."

Social Impact
Forget padding your resume: Joining UGA's Social Entrepreneurship Club means dedicating your free time to a community project and making sure it works. One of the club's most ambitious recent projects is Blue Earth Bistros. Here's how the initiative impacts campus and community:

  1. The bistros, located on college campuses, will focus on connecting students to one another through video chat and other applications to promote real-time dialogue on issues.
  2. Each restaurant will be managed by qualified owner/operators selected by Goodwill Industries or other agencies and will employ "traditionally unemployable people."
  3. The cafes will offer organic and locally grown food, creating a conduit for local farmers to get their produce to market and entice young people away from fast food.
  4. Students on the project will get experience setting up and running a business. The plan is to put Blue Earth Bistros on campuses around the country and world.

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Jason Daley lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. His work regularly appears in Popular Science, Outside and other magazines.

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This article was originally published in the October 2009 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Union of Town and Gown.

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