Adding Entrepreneurial Value

Bradley’s first Entrepreneur-in-Residence Charles Spungen stands with Dr. Gerald Hills, professor of entrepreneurship and director of the Turner School, left, and Dr. Stacey Robertson, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

By Emily Laidley ‘13
March 27, 2013

Too often a liberal arts education is viewed as too theoretical to work in the straightforward world of business. But Charles Spungen, a successful entrepreneur in manufacturing, is proof that liberal arts and entrepreneurship have a common foundation.

Spungen came to campus as Bradley’s first Entrepreneur-in-Residence, a joint effort by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Robert & Carolyn Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. During his three-day visit last week, Spungen spoke to individual classes, hosted office hours to answer students’ questions about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and gave a campus-wide lecture entitled “Liberal Arts and Entrepreneurship.”

Spungen identified “added value” as the major benefit of a liberal arts education to a person in business.

“Liberal arts students, in particular, excel at understanding how their ideas fit into a larger context,” he said, “and they seem to lack the self-censorship that steers people away from indulging themselves in larger, value-adding ideas.”

Value-adding ideas are, in a business context, those that create activities or products for which customers are willing to pay. Although altering or re-inventing the way a company operates can be unpredictable, Spungen said entrepreneurs must take calculated risks in order to reap a reward.

“To be an entrepreneur, first and foremost, you have to be committed to doing something that adds value,” he said.

Spungen earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in geography before working for the federal government as an intelligence analyst. He later developed a successful manufacturing business for hydraulic components and self-lubricated bearings, which led to the creation of one of the most advanced manufacturing plants in the country.

Dr. Steven Dolins, department chair of computer science and information systems, arranged for Spungen’s visit because of his educational background, varied experience and entrepreneurial success. Dolins said Spungen understands the value of the critical thinking and problem-solving skills gained through an LAS education and encourages students to become experts in their chosen fields.

Wes Enz, a senior international studies major, was one of the students  who met with Mr. Spungen and said the encounter directed him to focus on his career after graduation.

“We discussed a variety of graduate school options and the individual attention helped me more clearly define the steps I need to take to prepare for my desired career path,” Enz said. “The LAS Entrepreneur-in-Residence program is one more example of Bradley’s commitment to working collaboratively to provide students with the best possible learning experiences.”

During his talk, Mr. Spungen underscored how, for liberal arts students, it’s unlikely entrepreneurial ideas will spring fully formed from a subject or class. That’s why they should keep an open mind to the world around them and beyond their classrooms.

“[I]t doesn’t matter so much whether you study science, history, psychology, or English. It’s not what you learn in a liberal arts institute, it’s rather the act of engaging in scholarship itself [that] often opens your mind to possibilities that add value as an entrepreneur,” he said.