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Office of the Provost

Osborne Administration Building

Academic Priorities

McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise

About the Institute

The purpose of the McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise is to promote scholarly activity and educate students about the role of free enterprise and entrepreneurship in enhancing economic growth as well as to encourage students to contribute and participate through entrepreneurism in creating a better America.

The Institute is funded through the generosity of the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation which also funds centers at multiple other universities across the nation supporting entrepreneurship and free enterprise education. Robert and Janice McNair are committed to developing a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders who have both the technical skills and the philosophical understanding of how free enterprise system forms the basis of economic opportunity and prosperity for individuals in our country.  


Inspiring students to pursue entrepreneurship

The primary activity of the McNair Institute at the University of South Carolina is to offer a range of courses, experiences, and educational resources to inspire in students an appreciation of how free enterprise and entrepreneurship serve as a catalyst for economic growth in the Unites States and the world.

The highlight for lively dialogue with entrepreneurs occurs at the annual Capstone Conference sponsored by the McNair Institute where students meet with successful entrepreneurs to hear about their challenges, failures, and successes.

To contact the Institute, email

About the Staff

Dirk Brown, faculty director

Dirk Brown is the faculty director of the University of South Carolina's McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise. Dr. Brown is a seasoned executive with a strong track record of developing, marketing and licensing disruptive, proprietary technologies. He has written over 30 technical papers and journal articles, holds over 25 patents, and is an active member in a number of professional societies. Brown holds an MBA from San Jose State, a Ph.D. (materials science) and M.Eng. (applied physics) from Cornell University and a B.Sc. (Eng) in applied physics/electrical engineering from Queen's University in Canada.

Elizabeth Darden, assistant director, curriculum development

Elizabeth Darden is the assistant director, curriculum development of the University of South Carolina's McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise. Darden is a USC alumna, having graduated in 2014 from the Moore School of Business. Darden recently returned from serving in the Peace Corps in Peru, and has a strong background in project management and marketing communications.