Letters to the Editor

Our Reader: Whitman institute director responds to Koch donation articles

While I appreciate the recent attention in The Daily Orange to my scholarship and to a grant from the Charles Koch Foundation to support it, the reported speculation about it has been unscholarly and uncharitable. I would like to join the conversation and share the facts about my work.

I have spent my career exploring the characteristics that contribute to an entrepreneurial society. It is an academic approach to a part of the human condition that affects everyone. Entrepreneurship can empower individuals and communities. As institutions around the world have become more favorable to productive entrepreneurship, billions have raised themselves out of extreme poverty.

Entrepreneurship has given us iPhones and computers to read this on and to connect with people from cultures across the world. We have cars and buses to get to campus, and we have dramatically longer lives due to better health care. Studying entrepreneurship helps us understand how innovation, opportunity and supportive environments form some of the structural elements of human progress.

Last fall, the Whitman School’s proposal to expand and deepen this study at SU received financial support from the Charles Koch Foundation. The grant enabled the Whitman School to establish the Institute for an Entrepreneurial Society. Through IES, we will continue exploring how to generate innovation, opportunity and economic growth, as well as how institutions can unleash entrepreneurial innovation and human creativity. We will conduct research, train Ph.D.’s and host lectures open to the campus and the local community.

In the great history of SU, the university has received financial support from diverse philanthropies. Foundations supported by Bill Gates, Andrew Carnegie, George Soros and Andrew Mellon — as well as the Ford Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts — have supported the university’s goals.

All these philanthropies have supported some part of the mission of Syracuse University, helping to make it an important center for the pursuit of knowledge and the exploration of new ideas. I strongly doubt that the university would ever work with a donor who sought to contradict any fundamental characteristics of academic freedom, for then it would betray its mission and cease to be a free institution.

I invite my colleagues, students and members of the community to visit the Institute for an Entrepreneurial Society, join the discussion and see for yourselves what we are doing to carry forth the university’s mission.

Maria Minniti, Ph.D.

Director, Institute for an Entrepreneurial Society

Professor and Bantle Chair of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy

Martin J. Whitman School of Management

Syracuse University

721 University Avenue

Syracuse, NY 13244

 

 

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