Dordt center to focus on innovation

Jeff Kelly leads a business class at Dordt University in Sioux Center earlier this academic year. Kelly was hired last summer as the director for the university’s K and K Dooyema Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He also teaches management and entrepreneurship classes.

SIOUX CENTER—The K and K Dooyema Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is still in its early stages at Dordt University, but Jeff Kelly is eager to see it blossom.

The 57-year-old LeMars native was hired as the director for the business-focused center last summer and has since stayed busy developing the nascent organization.

The Sioux Center university established the business-focused center in early 2020. It is named after Dordt graduates Kim and Kathy Dooyema, who made a donation for its creation last year.

The center’s purpose is to equip students and alumni with business and entrepreneurial guidance and connect them to opportunities such as internships, mentorships and other professional resources. It consists of two main paths: An academic path and a community engagement path.

The academic path has two components.

The first is a new entrepreneurship minor that will become available in the fall for students who are not majoring in business. The minor consists of 12 credit hours of required courses along with electives to complement students’ interest areas.

“That’s on campus — regardless of what their major is outside of the business major — that had a natural interest in maybe someday running a nonprofit or running their own business or creating a product or service,” Kelly said.

The second academic component — which also will start in the fall — is an entrepreneurship emphasis for business majors. An emphasis is a special area of focus within an existing major.

The entrepreneurship emphasis will be the 11th offered for Dordt’s major. The others include construction management, finance, general business, human resource management and marketing.

Kelly said the entrepreneurship emphasis would be more robust than the entrepreneurship minor in terms of credit hours, although it shares the same purpose of serving students interested in one day starting their own business or organization.

The center’s community engagement path has yet to be fully fleshed out, since Kelly said the initial focus has been establishing the academic side. However, he has spoken to people in the Sioux Center business community about possible ways Dordt students can collaborate with them.

“How do we more effectively, as a university and with our current students, engage with the community to give our students authentic work experiences and then also provide solutions for the community in terms of being able to be a resource for them?” Kelly said.

Besides directing the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and helping develop its accompanying curriculum, Kelly also teaches a couple of management classes and an entrepreneurship class at the university.

Before he came to Dordt, Kelly spent more than 20 years working various roles in restaurant supply chain management. He also previously worked as a college instructor and football coach at Westmar College in LeMars and Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD.

Kelly became acquainted with a Dordt professor years ago at a conference while he was managing Pizza Ranch’s supply chain out of the restaurant’s corporate headquarters in Orange City. He later was introduced to Dordt’s president, Erik Hoekstra, and remained in contact.

Through that connection, Kelly learned the college was looking at starting an entrepreneurship center. When it became a reality, he was contacted to apply as director.

The position has allowed him to tap into skills he has developed in the business world during the past two decades, particularly when it comes to taking an idea and making it a tangible reality.

“This is right in my sweet spot in terms of functionalizing a vision,” Kelly said.

“The university had a very strong vision and a lot of passion about, ‘This is what we want to do. Now, how do we start it and how do we go from point A to point B, all the way through?’”