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Office of the Provost

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Academic Priorities

McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise

About the Institute

 The purpose of the McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise is to promote scholarly activity and educate students about the role of free enterprise and entrepreneurship in enhancing economic growth as well as to encourage students to contribute and participate through entrepreneurism in creating a better America.

The Institute is funded through the generosity of The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation which also funds centers at multiple other universities across the nation supporting entrepreneurship and free enterprise education. Under the guiding vision of Robert and Janice McNair, the foundation is committed to developing a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders who have both the technical skills and the philosophical understanding of how free enterprise system forms the basis of economic opportunity and prosperity for individuals in our country.


Inspiring students to pursue entrepreneurship

The primary activity of the McNair Institute at the University of South Carolina is to offer a range of courses, experiences, and educational resources to inspire in students an appreciation of how free enterprise and entrepreneurship serve as a catalyst for economic growth in the Unites States and the world.

The highlight for lively dialogue with entrepreneurs occurs at the annual Capstone Conference sponsored by the McNair Institute where students meet with successful entrepreneurs to hear about their challenges, failures, and successes.

The McNair Institute is located at 1430 Senate Street (the former State Archive at the corner of Senate and Bull Streets), Suite 106, Columbia, SC. Our mailing address is:

McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise
Office of the Provost
1430 Senate St., Suite 106
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208-0001

To contact the Institute, please call (803) 777-1717.

About the Staff

Dirk Brown, faculty director

Dirk Brown is the faculty director of the University of South Carolina's McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise. Dr. Brown is a seasoned executive with a strong track record of developing, marketing and licensing disruptive, proprietary technologies. He has written over 30 technical papers and journal articles, holds over 25 patents, and is an active member in a number of professional societies.

Brown holds an M.B.A. from San Jose State, a Ph.D. (Materials Science) and M.Eng. (Applied Physics) from Cornell University and a B.Sc. (Engineering) in applied physics/electrical engineering from Queen's University in Canada.

To contact Dirk Brown, call the Institute or email

Kristina Hooks, assistant director, partnerships and events

Kristina Hooks brings a broad range of experience from the business, government, and nonprofit sectors including work in higher education, auditing, and retail. She holds an M.B.A. from the University of South Carolina, an M.P.A. from the University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston, a B.S. (Business Administration) from the College of Charleston, and a B.A. (Corporate Communication) from the College of Charleston.

To contact Kristina Hooks, call the Institute or email

Katherine Swartz Hilton, special initiatives

Katherine Swartz Hilton oversees strategic initiatives for the University of South Carolina McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise. Ms. Swartz Hilton's expertise is organizational growth strategies, with a career spanning 20 years in academic and nonprofit executive positions.

She holds a M.A. in Organizational Change and Leadership from Columbia College, a B.A. in Communications from the University of South Carolina, a number of professional certificates and credentials, and has been recognized regionally in business and professional publications. She is an active volunteer and philanthropist.

To contact Katherine Swartz Hilton, please call 803-576-8358 or email

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