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Bernard Bell, executive director, Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship in the College of Arts & Sciences

Successful entrepreneur great fit for Shuford Program

When Bernard Bell was initially tapped to become executive director of Carolina’s Shuford Program for Entrepreneurship, he wasn’t sure he wanted the position.  At the time, Bell was enjoying success as Chairman and CEO of Urban Media Solutions, which he created after spending 23 years in the television industry.

Fortunately for UNC and its students, Bell reconsidered and assumed the position on July 1.

“The Shuford Program changes lives,” said Carolina senior interdisciplinary studies major Madrid K. Danner-Smith of Newark, New Jersey. “It has changed my life. Before Shuford I wasn’t doing that well academically, but Bernard helped me change my mindset about school and helped me get a 3.1 GPA. I’m a first generation student. He’s black, a UNC grad and one of the first black entrepreneurs I’ve ever met. He’s one of the few people I can really depend on, and I look up to him.”

The Shuford Program is funded through an $18 million gift announced last spring and allows students to take more entrepreneurship classes or to minor in entrepreneurship while assisting them with obtaining internships.

Bell, who earned a B.S. in economics from UNC in 1982 and an MBA from UNC’s Kenan Flagler Business School in 1992, said the program has four strategic initiatives: double in size by 2020; enhance the curriculum vertically and horizontally; grow strategic partnerships; and broaden the student experience with more experiential opportunities.

“We have an amazing team,” Bell said. “My job is to make sure they have all of the resources needed to execute.”

Tapping Bell to lead Shuford made sense as Urban Media Solutions has been successful.

“Our original goal in 2009 was to connect entertainment influencers with government institutions and non-profit organizations to tell more compelling stories so there would be deeper engagements,” Bell said. “So for example, if the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation wanted to create a compelling campaign ad, UMS would bring in Will Smith, who’s been affected by it, to do the ad and creative…”

Bell credits having “an incredible boss and mentor,” who’d been president and CEO of some major networks or channels, with helping him become a successful entrepreneur.

“He was also on the boards of Procter and Gamble and Nike, and … knew how to govern,” Bell said. “As a result we took the company to profitability in 54 months. He taught me the value of building teams, picking talent and staying focused on the big things and not worrying about the little ones. So I learned how to run a company.”

Bell was ecstatic when he heard about the establishment of Shuford and wishes a similar program had existed when he was in undergrad.

He’s determined to ensure Shuford works for students like Danner-Smith and Katie Dixon, a senior journalism major from Raleigh. They and a few other students joined Bell at a recent Board of Visitors meeting to discuss Shuford’s merits.

“Bernard prompted us with questions beforehand but wanted us to give raw, off-the-cuff answers,” Dixon said. “He has given me the confidence I was lacking as a sophomore to kind of explore more about who I am and what I like.”

Shuford is also a confidence booster, Dixon said, but Bell is invaluable to students.

“I’ve been to his office many times with questions about what I should do next or what career path I should try,” Dixon said. “He’s very realistic from all of his previous experiences, and he’s not afraid to tell it like it is or to give us the tools we need to succeed.”

By Laurie D. Willis ’86

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