A Sorrell College of Business program is garnering national media attention for its focus on free market economic principles.
Outlets such as Fox News, Breitbart, The College Fix, Bill O’Reilly and others have covered the Free Enterprise Scholars Program, which completed its first semester this past fall. Led by Associate Dean and Grady Rosier Professor of Economics Dr. Allen Mendenhall, the program is partially funded through a grant from the Bradley Foundation and run under the auspices of the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy.
Sorrell College Dean Dr. Judson Edwards said the program aimed to involve students in a dozen or more activities throughout the semester, including highly interactive reading groups and guest speakers, aimed at exploring the influence of corporate political activism on the economy and society.
“The goal of the program is to teach future business leaders about the virtues of commerce and the morality of honest profit,” he said. “All business students need the intellectual grounding to offer impactful alternatives in order to ensure the ESG movement does not hurt the societal and economic stability of the United States.”
“It is important for students to learn about ESG and DEI from all perspectives, so they are equipped to critically examine the costs and benefits. Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee the integrity of education provided by all American Colleges and Universities, but I can state with certainty that we are a business college and university where the seeking of truth is still the reason for our existence,” Edwards said. “Truth is revealed through an open, respectful educational environment where students have access to holistic, not one-sided, information. It is my hope that students will join the program and enhance their knowledge about this important business issue.”
Such media attention brings with it unintended benefits for students, not only at TROY but others around the country.
“Whenever the Manuel H. Johnson Center achieves national recognition for its Free Enterprise Scholars program, faculty from universities all over the country email to congratulate me and ask how they can institute a similar program on their campus. I’ve never met any of these people, but they’re inspired by our work,” Mendenhall said.
“I hear from corporate executives wanting to learn more about the books our students are reading, the speakers our students are meeting, the ideas our students are discussing. It’s an exciting time, and I believe the Johnson Center is at the forefront of a growing movement,” he said.
Mendenhall said the program has drawn interest from corporate executives wanting to know more and is expanding both the learning and teaching aspects within the Johnson Center.
“The Johnson Center has become a visible leader in the effort to push back against certain trends in corporate America such as the shift from shareholder to stakeholder primacy in governance, or the arguably illicit loosening of fiduciary obligations for investors, and our scholars are invited to appear on radio and television, to lecture to various organizations, and to advise managers about proper and ethical leadership,” he said. “We’re bringing the Center into a new era and having a felt impact on some of the most pressing matters facing companies today.”
Part of the impact is felt by students, who are increasingly exposed to corporate life in the country.
“The Free Enterprise Scholars Program has enabled our students to network with and study under leading experts in an informal, relaxed setting,” said Mendenhall, who added that one student gained a paid internship from participating in the program from a guest lecturer.