Southeast Missouri State University
For more information, contact:
Ann K. Hayes (573) 651-2552




CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., May 2, 2003 - Southeast Missouri State University has joined forces with the AmeriCorps*Vista Entrepreneur Corp in an effort to support developing entrepreneurial businesses throughout the region.

Beginning this spring term, six student volunteers in the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Southeast are contributing their time and expertise to local entrepreneurial enterprises. The Pilot project is a joint effort of Southeast and the federal Americorps*Vista Program.

Dr. Jack Sterrett, chair of the Southeast Department of Management and Marketing, said that since 1965 AmeriCorps*VISTA has been helping bring communities and individuals out of poverty, and that today, nearly 6,000 AmeriCorps*VISTA members serve primarily in hundreds of for profit and nonprofit organizations and public agencies throughout the country. The VISTA MBA Entrepreneur Corp program is a relatively new initiative with a major emphasis on community asset development. The purpose is to work to fight illiteracy, improve health services, create and support developing entrepreneurial businesses, increase housing opportunities and bridge the digital divide. A major focus is to leave behind lasting solutions to some of the country's toughest problems, he added.

The Entrepreneur Corps is fighting to establish and strengthen community-based financial asset-development programs across the nation and is designed to help people leave poverty behind. Members of the Entrepreneur Corps are socially responsible Americans ranging from recent college graduates to established business leaders, who are all committed to the cause, he said.

Sterrett is coordinating the process of selecting and establishing contacts between qualified VISTA MBA volunteers and qualified local area businesses and agencies. When selecting businesses/agencies for the project, Sterrett considers the positive economic impact that assistance provided will have for the business/agency, community and workforce.

"We live in the Delta District, which is an area with high levels of illiteracy and poverty," Sterrett says. "You break that cycle through education."

The VISTA MBA volunteers involved will be providing direct expertise to companies/agencies encountering problems. The volunteers also will provide other types of support and information on how to organize and market participating companies.

"We have to help companies that are closing doors and do what we can to improve and develop the community we live in," Sterrett says. "That's why the University is lending its expertise. We want to ensure that the businesses stay in Missouri so we can save jobs for Missouri residents."

The VISTA MBA volunteers will be working in the participating businesses 40-plus hours a week for one year. In exchange for a year of full-time service, students receive a living allowance of $9,600, health insurance, two three-day training sessions in Albuquerque, N.M., and a tuition waiver that covers up to 18 credit hours. When the students complete their service, they also will receive a $1,200 stipend.

"The first year of the project is a pilot study involving only six MBA volunteers who must be U.S. citizens residing in the United States," Sterrett said.

Sterrett will serve as an advisor to the VISTA MBA volunteers and as local site supervisor.

"Plans are to convene the VISTA MBA volunteers periodically on the University campus for briefings. These briefings also will provide volunteers with opportunities to discuss their respective placements and will similarly serve as consultants for each other," he said.

The same approach will be taken with the employer group.

In addition, to placements, the VISTA MBA volunteers will enroll in an entrepreneurship course.

"The MBA volunteers involved will gain an understanding of entrepreneurship. The majority of entrepreneurs eat, breath and sleep their business," Sterrett says, "and knowing the very nature of an entrepreneur tends to make the volunteers somewhat more appreciative of the work of an entrepreneur, and better employees -- employees, who know what they can do to make a difference."

"This project is a great opportunity for the VISTA MBA volunteers," he said. "They get a chance to apply their knowledge and to give back to the community."


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