McCool Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Studies

With the support, generosity and vision of Hoban donors and the administration team, the McCool Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Studies program was launched and classes began in January 2019.  

“When it comes to the skills necessary to compete and thrive in the 21st century workplace, few are as valuable as leadership, communication and the innovative problem-solving that comes from learning the entrepreneurial mindset,” said Jason Dzik, director of entrepreneurial and leadership development. “The McCool Center stresses the learning and application of these skills in the classroom and through an array of experiential learning opportunities.”

Working collaboratively with members of the Akron business community, Dzik introduces students to the various areas of entrepreneurship. Through field trips and guest speakers, Dzik's students meet entrepreneurs to learn from their motivations, process and business strategies. Early in the semester, he created small business Fridays in his class and invited small business owners and entrepreneurs to speak with his classes. 

"The students greatly benefit from listening to the guest entrepreneurs share their stories – their failures, successes and advice," Dzik said. "Our guests offered students plenty of time to ask questions and steer the conversation – while also teaching them to tie bow ties and sample some snacks!"

Hoban's entrepreneurship class is open to juniors and seniors. Junior Cam Mizer is one of the many students to take the course.

“Entrepreneurship is definitely a class that everyone at Hoban should take,” Mizer said. “Mr. Dzik is passionate about what he teaches, and it has helped me better understand the business world and how I, as a student, can make it better. I always thought business was about making money, but there is a much bigger picture to entrepreneurship and business. I have learned how much our innovations and ideas can make a difference in our world. That is what Hoban is all about. We are taught to serve and help others, and this class feeds off that conversation.”

Teaching entrepreneurship

Teaching entrepreneurship itself takes some innovation. The structure  of the course is different from traditional courses, and it has to be different. There is no book for the course. Students learn the art of the innovative process and pitching their creative business ideas through practice. 

“Some key areas of the curriculum are interpersonal communication, persuasion, public speaking, personal sales, design thinking, empathy, the lean revolution, which is a production method that minimizes waste, and professionalism,” Dzik said. “Students also learn the basics of marketing, value creation, finance, customer service and sales. They develop and practice these skills by designing and pitching multiple ventures throughout the year, including an end-of-the-year pitch competition in which they have to solve a problem at Hoban." 

The McCool Center Dedication Event

A dedication event for the McCool Center was held on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 in the Asente and Scala Families Innovation Center. Students, families, faculty, administration and members of the McCool Center advisory board attended.

Jim McCool ’77, the center's primary sponsor, and four other business leaders make up the program's advisory board. Members include Phil Maynard ’60, chair and CEO of ASW Properties, Inc.; William Considine ’65, CEO Emeritus of Akron Children's Hospital; Roger Read, former president and CEO of Harwick Chemical and philanthropist; Ravi Krovi, former professor at the University of Akron; and Christine Mayer, president of the GAR Foundation. Working collaboratively with Dzik, they have helped create a unique opportunity for students to go beyond learning the basics of business.

“My hope is for students to encounter multiple experiential learning opportunities where they may learn and refine the skills necessary for one to be a successful leader and entrepreneur,” McCool said. “Such skills, combined with a desire to serve others, should instill within students the competence to see and the courage to act.”

During the dedication event, McCool announced his family will offer an additional $100,000 match for the program. 

"Jim and his wife Diana's generosity is astonishing," Del Medico said. "This additional gift is an opportunity for the Hoban community to demonstrate their support of this paramount initiative."

"It's an exciting time to be a high school student, and we're excited to build our program into a premier center for entrepreneurship and leadership," Dzik said. "Our goal is to graduate well rounded students who, regardless of whatever career path they take, are equipped to solve problems, lead others and improve their organizations and communities. Graduates of the McCool Center will ideally emerge with all the tools to make a positive impact wherever they may find themselves.”

Students working in class
Mr. Dzik working with students
students working in class

“When it comes to the skills necessary to compete and thrive in the 21st century workplace, few are as valuable as leadership, communication and the innovative problem-solving that comes from learning the entrepreneurial mindset."

Jason Dzik, director of entrepreneurial and leadership development