NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University’s entrepreneurship academic program and Arnold Center for Entrepreneurship in the Rusche College of Business were collectively named one of the top three emerging entrepreneurship programs in the nation by the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

This award recognizes colleges and universities for their efforts developing nascent entrepreneurship programs that demonstrate outstanding progress toward becoming comprehensive, bold and innovative educational programs with early records of student impact.

“We introduced the entrepreneurship major in fall 2020 and opened the center in 2023, and it is amazing to see what ACE has accomplished in just a short amount of time and the impact that it is having not only for SFA students but also for the community,” said Matthew Smilor, ACE director. “This award validates a lot of work Rusche College of Business faculty, staff and students, as well as local community members, have done to build this hub for entrepreneurs in East Texas.”

Saint Louis University’s Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship and the University of Buffalo’s School of Management were the other two finalists in the category.

“From the Lumberjack Entrepreneurship Competition to the Piney Woods Entrepreneurship Network, ACE plays a central role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of East Texas and trains students to create, explore, invent, pioneer, imagine and innovate,” said Dr. Raymond Jones, director of SFA’s entrepreneurship program. “Our students and community are the wellspring for the startup of new businesses and the growth of existing enterprises.” 

Founded in 1981, the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship is an inclusive community of educators, researchers and entrepreneurs advancing entrepreneurship education through bold teaching, scholarship and practice. They are considered the premier entrepreneurship educational organization in the U.S.

ACE and its subunit, the Small Business Resource Hub, are two of four entities launched in recent years by the Rusche College of Business to help bolster local businesses. The others are Business and Community Services and the Center for Business and Economic Research.

For more information on SFA’s entrepreneurial offerings, visit

Stephen F. Austin State University, the newest member of The University of Texas System, began a century ago as a teachers’ college in Texas’ oldest town, Nacogdoches. Today, it has grown into a regional institution comprising six colleges — business, education, fine arts, forestry and agriculture, liberal and applied arts, and sciences and mathematics. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SFA enrolls approximately 11,000 students while providing the academic breadth of a state university with the personalized attention of a private school. The main campus encompasses 421 acres that include 37 academic facilities, nine residence halls, and 68 acres of recreational trails that wind through its six gardens. The university offers more than 80 bachelor’s degrees, more than 40 master’s degrees and four doctoral degrees covering more than 120 areas of study. Learn more at