Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ newest and fastest growing academic course of study, the Entrepreneurial Studies program, will establish classroom and workspaces in downtown Geneva this fall. The lease of the building at 22 Castle Street expands the partnership between HWS and the city, in which the Colleges committed a total of more than $1.7 million in revenue over 10 years to assist Geneva in balancing its budget.
The goal of the program’s downtown presence is to offer “a vibrant space where our students can develop their entrepreneurial ideas in a location that will lead to increased community partnerships,” explain Tom Drennen, professor of economics and chair of Entrepreneurial Studies at HWS, and Craig Talmage, visiting assistant professor of entrepreneurial studies.
Drennen and Talmage note that the program relies on face-to-face interactions with area business and community leaders, making the downtown location an ideal a hub for the Colleges’ programming around entrepreneurship, leadership and community development.
“As I have noted in the past, HWS is constantly delivering on their promise to make Geneva a great place for their students to learn,” says Geneva City Manager Matt Horn. “This has the added effect of making it a great place for our residents to live and work.”
As the Entrepreneurial Studies curriculum intersects with other HWS academic offerings, the new classrooms, discussion spaces, workspaces and meeting spaces will support related programs like the Centennial Center for Leadership’s Idea Lab, Innovation Academy and Pitch competition. With three floors and more than 7,000 square feet, the Castle Street location will also house office space for the Colleges’ Margiloff Family Entrepreneurial Fellow, who will develop academic programming that collaborates across campus and with external stakeholders and entrepreneurs.
The program’s downtown presence is “both symbolically and functionally significant,” considering Geneva City Council’s emphasis on the strategic importance of entrepreneurship to the city’s economic development. Because “downtown represents our greatest concentration of entrepreneurs,” Horn says, “it’s an incredible fit for the students and staff. Functionally, students will gain unique access into the workings of hundreds of small businesses with live entrepreneurs who are getting their ideas off the ground.”
For downtown Geneva, the Colleges’ decision also holds the promise of an economic boost. “Adaptive reuse of an historic structure and channeling college resources from both a construction and student/staff economic activity standpoint is a huge win for Geneva and downtown,” Horn says. “More consistent feet on the street is critical to our continued growth.”
In 2012, when the Colleges began making annual payments to Geneva to aid the city in balancing the budget, 70 staff members relocated downtown in what was the single largest influx of employees into the City of Geneva in recent history. HWS currently leases more than 18,000 square feet of space on Seneca Street, which remains privately owned and on the tax rolls, as will the property on Castle Street.
The Entrepreneurial Studies Program at HWS was founded in 2015 with an emphasis on preparing students with the conceptual understanding, practical skills and ethical structure necessary for business or civic leadership. Students explore and hone the analytical and critical thinking skills of a liberal arts education while pursuing projects and coursework focused on creating non-profit or for-profit enterprises, or leading innovation within existing organizations.
The launch of the downtown space will entail renovations to the Castle Street property, including the installation of a secondary egress and an elevator for access to the upper floors. The first floor will be utilized for the fall semester.
In the photo above, Tom Drennen, professor of economics and chair of entrepreneurial studies, and Warren Hamilton, pre-business adviser, assistant professor of economics and a member of the entrepreneurial studies faculty, which was responsible for establishing the program’s downtown presence, stand on Castle Street.