Gruhlke: Bringing the entrepreneurial spirit to business school

April 27, 2018

Young Americans are increasingly interested in starting their own business, according to recent surveys. Call it a desire to be one’s own boss, a need to strike out on their own, or fulfillment of one component of the American Dream, but no matter what, more than 60 percent of young adults are interested in starting their own business.

And Dr. Holly Gruhlke, assistant professor of business and Chair of the School of Business and Entrepreneurship (SoBE), is interested in helping them get there.

Gruhkle has been with Dickinson State University for a decade, having first arrived as a professional tutor in TRIO (formerly Student Support Services). After a couple years’ service tutoring and working as an administrative assistant, she moved into a new role in student support. Her responsibilities there in advising and teaching introductory classes were a natural springboard for her later entrance to SoBE in 2012 as a business instructor. Since then, she’s been living the dream.

“I was elated to have received an offer because teaching as a career was something I always wanted to do; it is my dream job,” she noted about her teaching role. “My interests lie within how people influence the outcomes of organizations.”

Her specialty, encompassing management, leadership and strategy, certainly helps. According to Gruhlke, SoBE faculty recognizing that providing students with a clear academic goal can serve to accomplish two goals.

“First, we ensure that our students have the additional field-specific skills employers’ desire, allowing them to launch their careers early,” she said. “Second, we want to add more focus on the role of entrepreneurship in all fields. We have discovered that employers, regardless of field, are starting to seek candidates with the entrepreneurial spirit, meaning our graduates should have the ability to think innovatively within what are often tight constraints.

“This goes beyond problem solving, but is really a blend of critical and creative decision-making, a focus in SoBE,” she continued. “It has changed the way I teach my courses, as I work harder now to challenge my students to really dig in to what they are learning, and put themselves into the shoes of the chief strategist role.”

Gruhlke stated that business students, or any student looking to start a business of their own, wants the tools to succeed as an entrepreneur. To achieve that end, faculty had to provide an education consisting of both traditional and practical elements.

“Students are exposed to business fundamentals within the classroom, but we go well beyond that by encouraging them to engage in internships,” she added. “We also encourage our students who are interested in starting their own businesses to work in our SoBE-affiliated Small Business Development Center (SBDC).”

“In my courses, we discuss how relationships are everything,” Gruhlke said. “Students enjoy learning how to utilize emotional intelligence to build trust and further the strategic potential of organizations.

“Teaching in business requires faculty to stay on their toes, constantly reading and keeping up-to-date with what is going on industry,” she continued. “I utilize real-world scenarios, and bring them into my classroom.”

Along the way, she’s received numerous accolades, including being named DSU Educator of the Year in 2017, chairing her department and being named to Prairie Business’ 40 Under 40 list, and advancing to the winner’s circle of the 2018 Leadership Excellence and Development Awards. She’s also earned the respect of colleagues.

Dr. Debora Dragseth, professor of business and president of Council of College Faculties, noted that Gruhlke was a tremendous asset for the school and an motivating influence on her students.

“Dr. Gruhlke is a leader is who draws followers to her. Her energy, creativity and commitment to Dickinson State University are contagious.  She has been the recipient of multiple regional and local awards for her leadership at the university as well as her outstanding skills in the classroom.”

“The students are what I like most about my role. I try my best to give them tools to succeed in the business world. It makes me incredibly proud to be a small part of their journey,” Gruhlke concluded. “Every day, I feel fortunate to be able to educate and lead in a growing and dynamic environment. I hope to continue to make a positive impact at Dickinson State University and serve my students and community.”

Outside of the classroom, she aims to be just as effective. Gruhlke sits on several boards, including the Patient Advisory Board for CHI St. Alexius Hospital of Dickinson, the regional Quality Advisory Board for CHI’s Fargo division, and also serves with the Dickinson Power of 100 Women Who Care, a charity organization that provides financial support to non-profit organizations in the Dickinson area.