Entrepreneurship Rising

The Greif Center is proving to the world that entrepreneurship can, in fact, be taught

September 11, 2017

Left to Right: David Belasco, professor Helena Yli-Renko, Lloyd Greif, Renee Greif and Marshall dean James G. Ellis at the grand opening of the new headquarters of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in November, 2016.


The Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies has proven time and again that you can, in fact, teach entrepreneurship.

Just more than 45 years ago, the University of Southern California established the first graduate program for entrepreneurial studies in the United States. A department in the College of Commerce and Business Administration, the Entrepreneur Program started small, but even in its nascent days, its members became leaders in business: William Lennartz, now president and chief executive officer of California Linear Devices Inc., and Lloyd Greif, MBA ’79, president and chief executive officer of the investment firm, Greif & Co., for example. 

    Lennartz has played a role in the establishment of entrepreneurship studies at USC since the beginning. As a member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Young Presidents Organization, he was one of the original eight businessmen who envisioned and co-founded the Entrepreneur Program in 1971.

    “The establishment of this center will give greater emphasis to the critical role of the entrepreneur in the American economy, while providing the entrepreneurs of tomorrow with the tools and inspiration to fuel their future success.” --Lloyd Greif at the dedication of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in 1998

    Greif, whose gift in 1997 established the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the USC Marshall School of Business, is continuing to help secure its impact on the future. Over the years, he has been recognized within the academic community for his role in pushing USC to the forefront of entrepreneurial studies.

    Impressive Numbers

    The numbers support the claim. By 2007, the Greif Center was ranked by Princeton Review as the #1 entrepreneurship program in the U.S. In 2014, Kathleen Allen, Professor Emerita of clinical entrepreneurship, was named Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year by the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (Jill Kickul, Professor of Clinical Entrepreneurship, won the USASBE award in 2017). In 2015, Helena Yli-Renko, the Orfalea Director’s Chair in Entrepreneurship and academic director of the center, and Nandini Rajagopalan, vice dean for faculty and academic affairs, and then the Capt. Henry W. Simonsen Chair in Strategic Entrepreneurship, made Hot Topics’ list of 100 Leading Professors in the Field of Entrepreneurship. Hot Topics is an online news aggregate for tech leaders.

    And, in 2016, the Greif Center moved to the two top floors of Marshall’s new flagship building, Jill and Frank Fertitta Hall, a 104,000 square foot, five-story, multi-functional, state-of-the-art academic hub for the community.

    “Welcome to our no-longer-humble abode,” said Greif at the dedication last autumn. “Now, the Entrepreneur Center has assumed its rightful place in the pantheon of the Marshall School.”

    An ever-expanding roster of programs and effective faculty recruiting demonstrate his point. In addition to the newest members of the faculty, two specialized Master’s Degree programs have been established (the MS in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the MS in Social Entrepreneurship). The Center supports research in entrepreneurship through initiatives such as the Greif Research Impact Award, the Greif Faculty Doctoral Student Research Award, the Greif Entrepreneurship Research Seminars, the Social Entrepreneurship Conference and the West Coast Entrepreneurship Research Symposium.

    In addition, the center now disseminates education in entrepreneurship through the new Greif Entrepreneurship Case Collection.  The first case series based at Marshall, the collection fills a gap in case studies with its focus on the southern California region and its distinctive entrepreneurial culture. (See sidebar.)

    “It has been a transformational year at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurship Studies,” said Yli-Renko. “With the new space and our new resources, we continue to further strengthen our position as a leading entrepreneurship center.”

    Best and the Brightest

    As she surveyed her department’s new home at the top of Jill and Frank Fertitta Hall last October, Yli-Renko remarked, “The new facility has definitely helped in our recruiting efforts -- top notch faculty deserve a state-of-the-art space.” Since its inception, the Greif Center has become one of the largest entrepreneurship faculty units in the world, with 13 full-time and 21 part-time faculty.

    Each addition has strengthened the center’s stature, with the newest professors to join the department, “bringing highly specialized expertise in their areas,” Yli-Renko said. “They raise the profile of the Greif Center to new heights.”

    Meet the faculty moving the needle on entrepreneurship education. Click here.