The wood science and forest products department’s Wood Enterprise Institute (WEI) — a student-run organization dedicated to promoting entrepreneurial opportunities — recently received a gift from alumnus Brooks Whitehurst (’51 B.S. in chemical engineering). Whitehurst visited WEI last summer and recognized it as an important learning environment to develop leadership skills among students as well as an ideal place to “test drive” new technology innovations from a business perspective. His donation will help WEI upgrade its design technologies, facilitate student innovation capability, and create an organized workplace more like those found in industry to help students run their business operations more efficiently.

Offered as a two-semester course, WEI provides students a hands-on learning experience in leading and managing a production business operation. Students create a business plan during the fall semester; in the spring, they execute the plan and keep track of business and financial performance metrics. The team sets business goals and manages daily operations such as product design, prototyping, mass production, marketing, packaging, and sales. Supervised by Professor Earl Kline, the students learn how to systematically analyze business limitations and improve operations for a more sustainable business. “I am truly honored that Brooks Whitehurst recognizes and supports WEI as an important learning opportunity to grow our students’ capacity in entrepreneurship,” Kline noted.

Anthony Muscatello, a senior who was in last year’s WEI, values the entrepreneurial experiences created through the program: “We dealt with real problems in the business world that connect students to future employers.” during another visit to WEI last fall, Whitehurst said, “This experience offers students a good balance of education in technology, design, management, and business all in one course.”