Skip to main content

WCU Stories

Free enterprise center receives support for student research, travel, guest speakers

sean mulholland csfe

Sean Mulholland, director of the Center for the Study of Free Enterprise

By Bill Studenc

The Center for the Study of Free Enterprise, located in Western Carolina University’s College of Business, has received funding to support undergraduate research efforts, student travel for professional development and guest speakers.

The latest round of funding comes in the form of a recent gift of $45,000 from Charles Koch Foundation, which previously provided $1.8 million in pledges and gifts as seed funding in 2016 to help get the center up and running.

The new one-time contribution will support the center in its new emphasis on undergraduate research, said Sean Mulholland, WCU professor of economics, who has served as director of the Center for the Study of Free Enterprise since August 2022. Mulholland succeeded the center’s founding director, Edward Lopez, who holds WCU’s BB&T Distinguished Professorship in Capitalism.

The gift from the Koch Foundation will providing funding for three initiatives, including undergraduate research projects that will be presented at academic conferences such as the Association for Private Enterprise Education, and ultimately, published in academic journals. It also will support student travel to attend academic and career conferences and job recruiting fairs and will fund one guest speaker to be co-sponsored by other groups and institutes on campus.

“The funds will be used through the end of the 2023-2024 academic year,” Mulholland said. “We already have three students planning to present their work this spring and two students who will be applying to attend weeklong academic programs this summer at the Property and Environment Research Center at the Acton Institute.”

The Property and Environment Research Center, also known as PERC, explores how aligning incentives for environmental stewardship produces sustainable outcomes for land, water and wildlife. The Acton Institute is a nonprofit research organization that promotes the benefits of free enterprise to religious communities, business, students and educators.

“The College of Business is truly grateful to the Koch Foundation for its support of our students, especially the opportunities for student research and professional development,” said A.J. Grube, dean of the college. “The opportunities provided by the Foundation will make such a positive impact not only for students, but for the Western North Carolina region.”

The Center for the Study of Free Enterprise was founded in 2015 as a hub for interdisciplinary scholarly inquiry and community engagement in the areas of economic development, applied research and the role of free enterprise in a flourishing society.

Office of Web Services