Since Dan Stewart first began teaching at Gonzaga University in 2006, he has committed himself to the school through his experience, skill set and overall care for the whole student. Stewart is a professor of entrepreneurship and the director of the Hogan Program.
“[Stewart] gets to know the students, he forms a relationship with them,” said Ken Anderson, interim provost and dean of the School of Business Administration. “He’s there for them for academic and nonacademic reasons and is willing to help them from Day One until after they’ve graduated. He’s a great representative of what we want faculty to be at Gonzaga.”
Stewart had been teaching at the Spokane branch of Washington State University as a business professor for some time before he was informed that the WSU-Spokane business program would be shut down, and he would have to relocate to Pullman.
This frustrated him, as he doubted his family would be excited to hear that they would be moving again. To clear his mind, he went on a walk along a familiar route.
He came upon a bridge, and on the other side was GU. He had never been on that side of the bridge before, but his curiosity got the best of him.
Considering it was May, Stewart was surprised to find a professor in his office at the business school. Stewart learned that he and the professor were not only involved in similar fields, but that the professor was resigning and the department still needed someone to fill his courses.
“It’s like it was meant to be, isn’t it?” Stewart said.
While on GU’s campus, Stewart discovered that the dean was also in his office. Stewart and the former professor greeted and presented the dean with Stewart’s resume. This is where he was pitched the MBA in American Indian Entrepreneurship (AIE) program.
The MBA in AIE program was funded by the Johnson Scholarship Foundation in 2001. GU was chosen to develop this program because of its national recognition, accreditation, strong mission and commitment to social justice.
“[Stewart] was a great fit right away for the AIE program,” Anderson said. “His academic background, his strategy and entrepreneurship — he’s got that personal/professional background with small business experience — and of course, being a tribal member himself.”
Stewart, who is a member of the Spokane Tribe of Indians, has worked with tribal governments and enterprise boards that manage businesses. His experience in business analysis gives him a theoretical understanding that some struggle to grasp.
The Foundation’s mission was to put students in the program so they could eventually return to the reservation and teach business at the tribal colleges, with the ultimate goal being economic development on reservations.
“It’s really quite impressive some of the leadership positions they undertake, so I would say it’s a very small minority who end up teaching in tribal college,” Stewart said. “They all become successful leaders within the business community and within their communities.”
What has made the program unique is the demographics of the student body. It originally focused on tribal members but has evolved to include individuals of any Indigenous background.
Stewart is passionate about this work since it raises his tribe up and removes some barriers to economic development faced by all reservations as well.
Being a part of the GU community has taught Stewart a lot about himself, and time taught him that he could learn just as much from others as they could learn from him.
He has found it empowering to know he can leave a positive impact on student’s paths.
“I feel like I’m more of a Sherpa or a guide at this point,” Stewart said. “It’s not important that I tell everybody everything that I know, what’s important to me is that I can help enable students along their journey to discover what they want to learn.”
The Hogan Entrepreneurial Program was founded in 2000 by the Hogan Family Foundation. Its vision was to build an interdisciplinary entrepreneurial leadership program that would further engage students in their respective majors.
When a director position opened up for the program, Stewart stepped up. He was a great candidate given his academic interest, professional experience, relationship with students and commitment to the program.
“Dan has brought a different energy to the program, particularly with his entrepreneurial small business background,” Anderson said. “He has a great team with him. Nicole [Cooney] and Cole [Kelly] have both been there for quite a while and have a very good handle on things.”
The program focuses on building leaders who understand innovation and change, and are also compassionate. Stewart said that Hogan builds people who think the ‘Gonzaga way’ — they are here to build successful businesses and be successful businesspeople, but for the good of society.
The minor admits roughly 25 students a year. They must apply their freshman year by October to be considered. It’s not all business students either – the program consciously diversifies its admittance in order to encourage strong leadership in a multitude of fields.
“They don’t go into startups right away, but we get the bug in them, and they come back to entrepreneurship eventually,” Stewart said. “We’re enablers of their chosen career.”
Stewart dreams of having a university-wide entrepreneurship center at GU. He envisions an all-inclusive, interdisciplinary model that would allow all students interested in entrepreneurial education to participate.
For now, he looks forward to starting the first academic journal dedicated to Indigenous businesses. This will be a monumental step forward for the field.
“Like many people at Gonzaga who are really good at what they do — whether they’re students, faculty or staff — he buys into the whole thing,” Anderson said. “He buys into the philosophy of education. He buys into the mission. He really believes that through education — whether it’s Hogan or AIE or just event teaching his other courses in the business school — he believes he can make a difference.”