Laura Dunham, an entrepreneur-turned-professor, has been named dean of the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas, the second-largest business college in Minnesota.
Dunham for the last five years has been associate dean in charge of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship within the business college. She succeeds Stefanie Lenway, who led the Opus College of Business since 2014.
“The Opus College needs an entrepreneurial leader, who will continue to build a culture of innovation in all corners of the college,” Lenway said in a statement. “Laura is this entrepreneurial leader with deep experience creating programs in the Schulze School that have received national recognition.”
With Dunham at the helm, the Schulze School grew nearly three times in size as measured by the number of majoring students and overall credit hours taught. Entrepreneurship is now the fifth-largest major at the University of St. Thomas.
In that time, the Schulze School went from unranked to No. 23 on the Princeton Review’s list of undergraduate entrepreneurship programs. Dunham aims for St. Thomas to be among the top-ranked Catholic business schools.
“We have a truly great faculty and staff who are dedicated to educating our students and supporting our community,” Dunham said in an interview. “What’s great about the rankings is that they let people know about our work.”
Dunham joined St. Thomas 19 years ago after co-founding a studio theater as a young adult. She helped create interdisciplinary experiences at the St. Paul-based university, including a workshop for first-year students that matches, for instance, engineering students with finance majors on projects.
Dunham worked with some of the university’s top benefactors, including Best Buy founder Dick Schulze and Liquid Investments CEO Ron Fowler, to create four business competitions that reward students with scholarships and seed capital.
More recently, she helped the Schulze School develop relationships with the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce, the Latino Economic Development Center and others to create more opportunities for prospective students and business leaders of color in Minnesota. As a result, Opus College began to attract a more diverse pool of candidates to scholarship programs and increase faculty diversity.
“We are really committed to creating an environment that attracts a more diverse set of students,” Dunham said. She noted that the Twin Cities region, like much of the country, faces a shortage of talent and a population that is increasingly diverse.
“We need to make sure everybody is getting access to educational opportunities,” she said. “It’s a moral imperative and an economic imperative.”
Lenway will remain at the Opus College, becoming a faculty fellow in its Business in a Digital World initiative.