Pett set to take helm of entrepreneurship center

9:25:02 AM CDT - Monday, June 20, 2005

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

WSU's incoming director for the Center for Entrepreneurship is no stranger to innovation.

Since coming to WSU in 1996 to teach in the management department, Tim Pett has helped start a new product competition among WSU students for an area business, worked with a team of American and German students to develop plans for introducing products into new markets, and is currently working with WSU's well-respected National Institute for Aviation Research to study commercializing its research.

Pett will take over as head of WSU's nationally ranked Center for Entrepreneurship the first week of July. Pett replaces Don Hackett, who is returning to full-time teaching after 11 years as the center's director. In an internal search, Pett was selected after a search committee unanimously recommended him to John Beehler, dean of the Barton School of Business.

While the center has been lauded and recognized for its curriculum and innovative efforts such as the Kansas Family Business Forum, which helps family businesses succeed into second and third generations, and its outreach education efforts with such towns as Phillipsburg, Kan. the time is right, Pett said, to incorporate and connect more of the research going on to students and the business community.

"With all the changes in Wichita and the changes in entrepreneurship and the new faculty, this is an opportunity to harness the resources of the college to do research and outreach in the region and improve the education for our students," said Pett. Two new faculty Derek Ruth, coming from Purdue University, and Allen Broyles of the University of Tennessee will join the faculty this fall, bringing the total number of entrepreneurship faculty within to five. While directing the center, Pett will also continue teaching.

"I really want our program to be a top-tier program and one facet we're missing is research. But now we have enough folks doing research" to incorporate that aspect, Pett said.

He'd also like to see the center work more with other areas at WSU both with students and faculty for more interdisciplinary exchanges. Pett already is involved in one such endeavor. He and four MBA students are planning to do a pilot study for WSU's NIAR on whether the institute can commercialize some of the new technology and basic research it has produced in the aviation field. While this project involves working with engineers, Pett would like to see more disciplines among entrepreneurship majors.

"I want to contaminate our majors with scientists, engineers, fine arts and other areas, to get them thinking outside the box," he said, shortly before heading to a meeting with NIAR researchers.

Under Hackett's directorship, the center grew in majors and also revised its curriculum. Pett plans to expand on that educational emphasis and get WSU involved in business plan competitions, a practice done by many of the top business and entrepreneurship programs in the country. Pett thinks WSU students are up to the challenge.

"Our students can compete nationally," said Pett, who has started an internal business competition among his students.

Working with the Valley Center, Kan.-based Hayes Co., Pett started a competition for WSU students to develop new product ideas for the company, which manufactures decorative lawn and garden products for major retailers. Students meet with various company officials, from research and development staff to the CEO, and then present their new product ideas to officials in the company's boardroom.

Pett has also introduced a global component to his classes. This past semester, MBA students in Pett's strategic management class worked with MBA students from the Berlin School of Economics to assess the Wichita and German business climates and how to release products, like Big Dog Motorcycles, a Wichita-made product, and Zeha Berlin tennis shoes, a trendy German shoe, into international markets. The students communicated online and then the 20 or so German students came to Wichita in April to visit firms and conduct focus groups.

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