News & Events

Mitchell Tech Entrepreneurship to Offer Diploma Option

Program now available to more prospective students

As its first-ever cohort of students prepares to graduate this spring, Mitchell Tech announced that the entrepreneurship program will be expanded this fall to include a new demographic—students who have never before earned a college degree.

“Now, we can accept students right out of high school or who have been out in the working world but now seek some higher education or want to look at owning their own business,” Mitchell Tech Vice President for Academics Carol Grode-Hanks explained.

For the 2023-2024 school year, students had to have previously earned either a diploma or an associate degree in some other trade as a prerequisite for entry into the Entrepreneurship program.

“This makes the opportunity to own your own business more of a reality, with fewer obstacles to pursuing higher education or your diploma,” Grode-Hanks said.

Ryan Van Zee, entrepreneurship instructor at Mitchell Tech, said that, since the program was announced last spring, several current business owners as well as aspiring business owners have expressed interest in learning the skills the program teaches, and now they will be able to get the education they need in order to grow.

Grode-Hanks said this is a great growth opportunity for South Dakota.

“Communities are stronger with more people investing in their own businesses within the walls of their own their communities. We are going to provide them with the skills to do just that,” she said.

The nine-month program requires students to be on campus just two days per month, with flexible weekly assignments completed online. The 36-credit program is ideal for those who have already started their businesses, those who are ready to start their businesses, or for those who want to be prepared with the know-how when the time is right. Throughout the program, students learn how to build websites, navigate bookkeeping and advertising and where to turn for continuing education – as well as receive tools to simplify those processes. In the process, they develop an “advisory board” network from a host of guest presenters from various support fields, as well as the support of their peers.

Van Zee said taking the courses with others of diverse interests provides a unique opportunity to stay focused on the art and science of starting a business, rather than getting bogged down in the day-to-day challenges of their specific trade, or in feeling as though they are in competition with others in the class.

The model has worked well for the first cohort, according to Van Zee. Two students had already started their businesses before joining the class, and the others are in the start-up phase.

“All of our students are profitable, because the first thing we teach them is to generate revenue, and then we scale – not the other way around,” he said. “The two who had already been in business are now looking to hire employees.”

While all of the students in the first cohort were traditional students who enrolled in the program as a third-year option to add a skillset to what they learned in other Mitchell Tech programs that will allow them to confidently start their own companies, Van Zee said he is hopeful that the new stand-alone option will invite non-traditional students to launch their businesses. It’s also a good option for individuals who have launched a business based on strong occupational skills but require a firmer understanding of the business aspects, he said.

“This diploma option opens it up to the community, because half the trucks in our town have signs on them, and few of them have had formal education, nor do they have access to modern apps, but now they can have both, and at two days a month, they can keep their day jobs,” he said.

In addition to the stand-alone diploma option, students who have previously earned a diploma or associate degree in another program of study will have the option to earn an associate degree in entrepreneurship after the one-year course of study.

“A cosmetologist or a power line worker, for example, who has earned a diploma in their respective trade will, upon completion of the entrepreneurship program, graduate with an associate degree,” Grode-Hanks said. “Anyone who enters this program without prior education will be awarded a diploma.”

For further information about the entrepreneurship program at Mitchell Tech, visit or contact the Admissions office at 605-995-7120.


More Cool News & Events

Be the best tagline logo