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Center for L.I.F.E. takes shape at Farmer School of Business

Thanks to a $3 million gift, the Leading the Integration of Faith & Entrepreneurship program is now a center.

Classroom discussion with guest speaker
Research and Innovation Economic Impact Excellence and Expertise

Center for L.I.F.E. takes shape at Farmer School of Business

What began as a research lab in 2018 is now taking on new L.I.F.E (Leading the Integration of Faith & Entrepreneurship) as a center, following the rapid growth in research, teaching, and funding with a recent $3 million gift. The Center for L.I.F.E. was officially approved earlier this year and is a major step in furthering the activities of the L.I.F.E. Program.

Brett Smith, founding director of the Center for L.I.F.E. and Cintas Endowed Professor of Entrepreneurship, explained the value of conducting research and teaching on the subject of faith and entrepreneurship, saying, “For many people, faith is an enduring and prominent factor in life, often affecting the way they think and act. If we want to know how and why people engage in entrepreneurial activities but we fail to consider the role religion may play, we are significantly limiting our ability to understand the decision-making and entrepreneurial action of a wide spectrum of people.”

The goal of the Center for L.I.F.E. is two-fold: to produce academically rigorous and practical research, and to provide world-class student experiences at the intersection of faith and entrepreneurship in hopes of seeing every student beyond ready to live and work authentically. “When you go to work, you do not check your identity at the door. For roughly 80% of the world’s population, that identity includes a faith perspective,” Smith said. “Similar to gender and race, considering faith is crucial to further celebrating diversity and cultivating cultures of respect and understanding in the workplace.”

Faculty and staff in the Center for L.I.F.E. have produced award-winning scholarship published in top academic journals, in several cases alongside faculty from around the world. To further its research arm, the Center for L.I.F.E. hosts an international research conference each spring, regularly attended by over 100 scholars from around the world. Additionally, L.I.F.E. leads a Ph.D. Seminar at the Academy of Management annual meeting for doctoral candidates interested in conducting research on faith and entrepreneurship.

On the student-facing side, the Center for L.I.F.E. engages Miami students in two primary ways: the “Integrating Faith and Entrepreneurship” course in the Farmer School of Business, and curated summer internships in conjunction with the Altman Summer Internship Program. Students from across campus have participated in the course, covering topics including faith diversity, stewardship, teams, success, and redemptive entrepreneurship. This summer, three students held internships with OCEAN Programs, a high-tech start-up accelerator with faith at its core. In addition to OCEAN Programs, prior internships include Master Provisions and Flywheel, and a full-time placement at Soteria Battery Innovation Group.

Tim Holcomb, professor and director of the John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship, explained, “Not only have faculty and staff from the Center for L.I.F.E. and its predecessor, the L.I.F.E. Research Lab, developed a strong reputation for producing academically rigorous, practically relevant research at the intersection of faith and entrepreneurship in top entrepreneurship and management journals, but their efforts helped establish an entirely new subfield of research on religion and entrepreneurship. Together with the department's world-class scholarship in social entrepreneurship, poverty alleviation, and societal impact, L.I.F.E. has helped propel research faculty from the Department of Entrepreneurship into the Top 25 in the Global University Entrepreneurship Research Productivity.”

“I’m excited to see what the future holds for the John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship’s newest center,” Farmer School of Business dean Jenny Darroch said. “The establishment of the Center for L.I.F.E. is an important milestone both as an opportunity to expand knowledge and opportunities for the Miami community and also to further solidify Miami University’s reputation as an innovative leader in both research and teaching.”