South Dakota State University has named Craig Silvernagel, an associate professor of entrepreneurship and innovation management in the Ness School of Management and Economics, as the school’s first Nies Faculty Scholar in Entrepreneurship. The Nies Endowment supports this named faculty-scholar appointment.
“I was surprised,” Silvernagel said. “We’ve been doing some important things here in entrepreneurial studies, and not just in the Ness School, but also throughout campus, and it’s nice to be recognized. I’m very grateful for that.”
Endowed faculty positions are critical to achieving premier levels of success and distinction in both academic programs and research at all universities. These positions allow SDSU to accomplish things that otherwise would not be possible in its mission for academic and research excellence. Becoming a named professor or chair is among the highest academic honors that a professor may receive.
The Milton Nies Endowment was established in 2006 through the Milton Nies estate, becoming the first endowed faculty position within what would become the Ness School of Management and Economics. Milton Nies graduated from SDSU in 1950 with a bachelor of science degree. He went on to work for, and later own, United Accounts Inc. in Bismarck, North Dakota. Nies passed away in 2003 at the age of 75, but his legacy lives on through his endowment, which is utilized to attract outstanding faculty with expertise in enterprise economics, entrepreneurship and business management.
Going forward, this Nies Faculty Scholar program will support research, outreach and student-scholarship outcomes in entrepreneurship that strategically align with both the extent of the Nies Endowment and the strategic plan of the Ness School of Management and Economics, per Joseph Santos, professor and director of the Ness School of Management and Economics.
Currently, Silvernagel’s teaching interests are in new venture creation and entrepreneurial finance. Most of Silvernagel’s research and scholarly activity has focused on entrepreneurial finance and intellectual property.
“Some of the things I’m doing now that really interest me are around interdisciplinary activities, and the scholarship of teaching and learning,” Silvernagel said. “For example, there is currently a faculty group from mechanical engineering, early childhood education, and entrepreneurial studies, and we’re working collaboratively with students from our own programs and students from other programs across campus such as the School of Design, and the School of Communication and Journalism. Together, we’re designing and building innovative products and learning experiences.”
While Silvernagel will continue with his teaching and research activities, this endowment will allow him the opportunity to lead the augmentation of both some existing programs and the development of some new programs.
One of the first things that Silvernagel wants to do is reignite the idea of what he calls an “emerging entrepreneur in residence.”
As Silvernagel explains, in entrepreneurial studies, a lot of time is spent exploring the very early stages of a developing startup or company. A lot of time is also placed on examining exits and the later stages of a company, when many systems and processes are in place and the company is more fully formed.
“In my view, one of the areas that hasn’t been explored enough is in the messy middle, which is where an entrepreneur is past the early startup stage, but they’re not really fully formed yet,” Silvernagel explained. “I think there are a lot of interesting things to learn and take away from engaging with entrepreneurs that are operating in that space. I think there’s also real value in those individuals reflecting back on where they started and where they are now.”
Silvernagel’s initial plan behind the program would see an entrepreneur, who is around 5 to 10 years into a venture, invited to campus to spend a few days talking to some classes, possibly giving a keynote speech and even mentoring a few student projects. On a community scale, that individual could—for example—visit the SDSU Research Park, the Economic Development Corporation, and the South Dakota Enterprise institute, tour the city of Brookings and also connect with SDSU researchers doing work related to the type of venture they are pursuing.
“We try to make all those kinds of links that benefit our students and our community, but also will benefit the entrepreneur,” Silvernagel said. “That is an example of what I see as high value programming development made possible by an endowment like this. It benefits students, faculty, the entrepreneur, and the community more broadly as well.”
Silvernagel himself has experience in the entrepreneurial space, having grown up in a family business where his parents co-founded and operated a custom plastic injection-molding manufacturing firm—Duo Plastics, Inc.—in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. He also co-founded and operated a marketing and commercial art/production firm—Ad Monkeys, Inc.—before selling his stake in the company to his business partner.
Silvernagel has been with SDSU since 2014, after earning his Ph.D. in teaching and learning (higher education focus) from the University of North Dakota that same year. He also earned his undergraduate degree and M.B.A. from the University of North Dakota.
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