BOSS program at IU East draws national acclaim

Tim Scales

A program designed to whet the business appetite of high school students in Wayne County and beyond has brought national honors to the BOSS program at Indiana University East.

The BOSS program – Business Opportunities for Self-Starters – finished in the top three Tuesday night (October 3) in the Innovation+Talent category of the University Economic Development Association’s 2017 Awards of Excellence. IU East was one of only 24 finalists nationally in six categories, and the only one this year from Indiana.

The awards are given at UEDA’s annual conference for innovative programs that help develop economic prosperity in a university’s community. BOSS founder Tim Scales said on Wednesday that he is thrilled by the honor, and by sharing ideas and attending the conference and ceremony at Long Beach, California.

“It’s not about being No. 1. It’s about being recognized,” said Scales, director of IU East’s Center for Entrepreneurship. “It tells me our quality is really, really good – but we are not finished.”

He has been networking and gaining new ideas for BOSS, which has reached 3,500 students in nine counties in the 10 years since it started in Scales’ first year at the university. The program has even reached into South Africa.

“It’s fun creating innovative programs,” Scales said. “The goal at that time was to have 160 trained in a two-year period.”

BOSS offers a 54-hour curriculum that preaches creativity and teaches high school students how to develop business plans. They are taught by instructors who have undergone a three-day training program with IU East staff.

During the program, students visit with community leaders in government and business fields. Besides classrooms, BOSS also has been taught in summer, afterschool and weekend programs.

Scales said he was asked early this summer to apply for the UEDA honor. After doing so, he was invited to make a presentation during the conference.

He previously was unaware of the competition because it focused primarily on economic development.

The awards are designed to help accelerate these programs by recognizing cutting edge initiatives, and to promote their adoption by other universities and communities, according to literature from the UEDA. Finalists were chosen by a committee of university and economic-development professionals.

“I am very proud of the BOSS program,” Scales said. “This solidifies our quality. The impact is amazing.”

Future impacts could be amazing, too, he believes. This week’s award and visit to California will lead to more of a focus for BOSS on community and economic development.

“I have probably interacted with 125 or so people out here. I’ve talked to a couple about grants. I’ve talked to many about collaboration, maybe bringing BOSS to other communities.”

He spent a day visiting a library that has created “an amazing worker space,” one that offers possibilities for IU East. “It’s just supporting and appreciating other ideas,” he said. “Some of those could lead to ways to grow the BOSS program.”

Scales has kept in contact with his classes while attending the conference and another one this weekend in Las Vegas. “Classes are meeting with me online this week,” he said. “I have them working on projects.”