Southeast graduate's research paper helped Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship secure grant

Monday, July 16, 2012
Jana Gass (photo courtesy of Southeast Missouri State University)

Jana Gass has always been interested in business. The 24-year-old obtained an undergraduate degree in international business from Southeast Missouri State University, and recently completed a master's in business administration with an emphasis in entrepreneurship also from Southeast.

While completing her MBA, Gass wrote a research paper that won the best empirical paper award in a contest sponsored by the psychology department at Southeast Missouri State University. Her paper, "Jumpstart to Entrepreneurial Success in Southeast Missouri," was one of two winners in the contest.

"Anyone could submit a paper in the contest," Gass says. "After the judges read your paper, you were asked to give a five-to-10-minute presentation about your paper before the judges."

Gass conducted the project for the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Southeast. The center offers the six-week Jumpstart program to individuals who are interested in starting their own business.

"Participants in the program are asked to write and submit a business plan," says Gass. "The business plans are then judged by people who have owned or currently own a business, as well as professors at the university. The business plan that is judged as the best gets a grant from the center to help them start their business."

When deciding on the topic for her research paper, Gass enlisted the advice of Dr. James Stapleton, a professor at Southeast Missouri State University and executive director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

"Dr. Stapleton helped me to choose the Jumpstart program for my project," says Gass. "I've always been interested in business and I like to learn how others have started their own businesses."

Gass' research for the paper included interviewing 16 individuals who had completed the Jumpstart program.

"I asked them all about three external and three internal factors relating to starting their own and running their own business," says Gass.

She also conducted a literature review where she compared her findings regarding the Jumpstart program to past findings.

"All in all, the whole project took about a year to research and write," says Gass.

In addition to winning the best empirical paper award, Gass' project also helped prompt the Delta Regional Authority to grant the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship funds to expand the Jumpstart program into other communities.

"The Delta Regional Authority is a group designed to improve economic development and quality of life in the eight states of Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee," says Gass. "The Center [for Innovation and Entrepreneurship] used some of the research from my paper to help them obtain the grant from the Delta Regional Authority."

In addition to obtaining her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Southeast Missouri State University, Gass also completed an internship with NARS Calling Center a couple of years ago.

Gass recently landed a job as an assistant bank examiner with The Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis.

As for starting her own business, she says it's something she might consider in the future. "I love hearing about innovative ideas that lead someone to start their own business, but I definitely want to gain some experience in the business world first," she says.

Gass says her immediate goals are to be successful in her new job and to enjoy her love of travel. She has already visited France, Italy, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Panama. Gass currently resides in Belleville, Ill.

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