School:Arkansas Baptist College

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Overview - Rebuilding Lives & Local Community 1

Arkansas Baptist College (ABC) is a private, historically black liberal arts college located in Little Rock, Arkansas. ABC was founded in 1884 as the Minister's Institute, and was initially funded by the Colored Baptists of the State of Arkansas.

ABC’s current president, Dr. Fitzgerald “Fitz” Hill, is the 13th president in the school’s history. Dr. Hill accepted his presidency at a time when no salary was budgeted to pay him, and school enrollment had dipped to fewer than 200 students. Under Dr. Hill’s leadership, enrollment has since grown to more than 1,100 students. The school's budget has grown from $2 million to nearly $20 million, and Dr. Hill now draws a salary.

Dr. Hill is committed to nurturing ABC’s traditional strengths as a historically black college: connecting academic programs to applied workforce and entrepreneurial skills and taking a leading role in rebuilding the local community.

The Community Union, an 11,000-square-foot facility scheduled to open later in 2012, a renovated Old Main residence hall, and two new education buildings, are part of an over $30 million capital campaign now underway at Arkansas Baptist College.

Arkansas Baptist College’s (ABC) Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Development is ABC’s flagship entrepreneurship initiative.  In addition to a micro-lending program, the Center will offer the Icehouse Project, a special course designed to immerse participants in eight life-lessons in fundamental concepts to building an entrepreneurial mindset.  ABC is one of the initial pilot sites for the Icehouse Project, which was developed by Pulitzer Prize-nominee Clifton Taulbert and Gary Schoeniger.  The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Foundation of Entrepreneurship, which focuses on entrepreneurship, innovation, and education provides funding for the Icehouse Project.

The African Bean Company is another key partner in the Scott Ford Center.  African Bean Company manufactures the Roots Java coffee brand, which sells coffee beans harvested in Africa.  Currently, the African Bean Company is negotiating retail agreements with major retailers throughout the country.  Profits from sales will assist ABC in its capital campaign.  The college will house a Roots Java retail outlet in the Community Union building.

Below is an enumeration of Arkansas Baptist College programs and initiatives that support the five buckets in the NACIE sponsored university commitment letter.

Student Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is one of three concentrations in the School of Business’s Department of Business Administration; it offers students an opportunity to start a new business, run a family business, or launch a new venture within an existing company.  The program provides students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to enter the entrepreneurial field.  The concentration is also designed to provide students with the drive, motivation, and discipline required to handle challenges associated with starting or building a business.

In addition to academic work, business students can join the Entrepreneurship Club and deepen their practical knowledge by co-managing various college owned businesses.  The Entrepreneurship Club aims to provide a conduit for students to access relevant entrepreneurial resources, network with prominent community entrepreneurs, and share ideas.  To this end, the Club is dedicated to building further understanding about new or small businesses, and about entrepreneurship in all businesses.  To deepen their practical knowledge, students have opportunities to participate in internships and service learning projects at the ABC’s Garden of Eden.  This type of learning allows students to apply knowledge and skills in a real-world setting.  Through these experiences, students deepen knowledge, build workplace skills, and come to better understand the world in all its complexities.

Faculty Entrepreneurship

ABC business school faculty will participate in the Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Development’s initiatives to train entrepreneurs to start businesses in underserved communities.  The faculty will work with student organizations to build and cultivate relationships and to increase campus awareness of entrepreneurial thinking and opportunities.  The faculty will also collaborate with the Director of Career Planning and Placement to provide an entrepreneurial perspective to Careers Services initiatives.  In using the Center as a service portal, the faculty will network with already successful businesses and business support agencies in the area and surrounding area.  The purpose of the Center involves establishing a network of mentors and resources for start-up and existing businesses or community residents who are interested business ownership.

Dr. Howard O. Gibson, Dean of the School of Business and Director of Entrepreneurship leads the ABC’s faculty entrepreneurship initiative.  Dr. Gibson and the faculty will co-manage the Center’s microenterprise loan fund, which will serve as a catalyst to spur business development in core urban areas.

University Technology Transfer Functions

ABC does not have a technology transfer office in the conventional sense.  However, the College hopes the entrepreneurial capital graduates will positively transform the local business climate.  In this way, rather than commercializing research outputs, the College hopes to add to the entrepreneurial vigor of its community through college and alumni owned business ventures. 

College-Industry Collaboration

ABC’s Capital Campaign and various entrepreneurship initiatives have deepened the College’s collaborations with the private industry.  These collaborative relationships include First Security Bank of Little Rock and Arkansas Capital Corporation.

First Security Bank of Little Rock and Arkansas Capital Corporation will provide financing for ABC’s $18 million capital improvement initiative.  Under the New Markets Tax Credit Program, the Arkansas Capital Corporation will sell tax credits to qualified national investors, and the tax credits ultimately will reduce the amount of debt owed by ABC to First Security Bank.

Over the past two years, ABC has raised $6 million in contributions and grants for capital projects.  The College has also demolished or renovated 20 houses, bought 12 additional homes and lots, and acquired three businesses in an effort to revitalize the neighborhood. 

As part of the capital improvement, ABC has:

  • Constructed a new building that will expand the cafeteria from 77 seats to 322
  • Constructed a new 190-bed residence hall; and
  • Purchased land around the campus to prepare for future growth.

 ABC will also:

  • Construct a community union that will include a coffee shop, a campus bookstore, a lounge-study area, a food court, a conference room, and office spaces.

Another invaluable industry collaboration is with Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Foundation of Entrepreneurship.  These two organizations will co-fund ABC’s Icehouse Project.

Regional and Local Economic Development

The Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Development will be recognized as an innovator in educating and serving students and clients in economic development.  In addition, the Center will become a catalyst for development in Little Rock and beyond.  The design of the Center is a blended model using a micro-enterprise development process through business education.  This process will combine the best practices in this generation of revenue and social-value to educate and train social entrepreneurs for the twenty-first century.

ABC through the Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Development, will house a micro-lending program to provide small business loans to individuals who might not otherwise qualify.  The micro-enterprise loan fund will serve as a catalyst to spur business development in core urban areas.  An independent board that includes the College’s business faculty and administration, and local experts in banking and venture capital will supervise the pilot fund.

  • Lending will range from $50 loans to up to $5,000;
  • The program aims to launch up to 10 new businesses annually; and
  • Borrowers will be able to draw on the expertise of the advisory council in developing their business strategy.

In addition, ABC also operates several community businesses.  These include the Auto Baptism Car Wash and the Garden of Eden Fresh Market.  All the businesses supported by ABC serve as a training ground for its students.  In turn, the College reinvests the profits to restore the surrounding neighborhood.


The revitalization of Arkansas Baptist College (ABC) has been both innovative and entrepreneurial. In February 2006, ABC’s enrollment was fewer than 200 students, and the college appeared on the verge of losing its accreditation. Five years later, ABC has a new men's residence facility, which houses nearly 200 students, along with a soon to be completed women’s residence hall.

Improvements have not been limited to physical structures; ABC has maintained its accreditation by the North Central Higher Learning Commission and enrollment has grown to more than 1,100 students. The school's budget has also grown from $2 million to nearly $20 million.

ABC’s success was crafted by Dr. Hill’s innovative vision of creating a non-traditional entrepreneurial school which welcomes everyone. The college assists high school dropouts (up to 40 percent of urban students currently drop out) to earn a GED. Successful candidates can then enroll full-time at ABC. Dr. Hill has also set on an aggressive $36 million capital campaign, which has already raised $23 million. Even so, tuition is about $2,700 a semester, making ABC the least expensive private school in Arkansas.

Just as importantly, many of the initiatives that account for ABC’s success can be replicated in many HBCU and urban universities.

Dr. Gibson’s comments have been instructive in better understanding ABC’s various innovative entrepreneurship programs. As well as the impact of the NACIE commitment letter in framing ABC’s strategic plans and institutional culture.

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship thanks ABC’s assistance with this case study, and looks forward to a continued close and collaborative relationship in building America’s innovation infrastructure.

1 Comments By Howard O. Gibson, Ph.D. Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs; Dean, School of Business; Director, Center for Entrepreneurship | Arkansas Baptist

Fitz Hill:

Scott Ford Center:

Arkansas Baptist College plans $18 million expansion:

Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship…:

ESPN Commentary:

Source: "The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University: Higher Education, Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Focus", Department of Commerce, October 2013.