“We want to explore how business affects the human condition,” says Reed Watson, director of the Hayek Center for the Business of Prosperity at Clemson University’s College of Business in Clemson, South Carolina. “Specifically, we are trying to understand how competition in the marketplace helps people—be they customers or employees—as well as if and when competition hurts people.”
The center’s inquiry into where the economy and society intersect has just received a big boost with a $5 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation to expand the center’s programs. Named for the Nobel-Prize winning free-market economist, Friedrich Hayek, the Hayek Center pursues its mission through undergraduate education, academic research, and community outreach that advances the understanding of the role of business in society. The Hayek Center was founded in 2018, and in its first year developed several new programs aimed at helping students harness business principles for societal good.
“Most undergrad courses teach you how to be successful at business—how to market and price a product, or improve a supply chain,” says Watson, adding, “You’ve got to know that. But we want students to understand not just the how of business but also the why. Business can be a vehicle for serving people’s needs.” In fact, advancing social good is a necessary ingredient for success. “If you’re going to be profitable long term, you have to do this.”
Perhaps the proudest moment in the center’s inaugural year was the development of the student-run business boot camp created for undergraduates, mostly engineering students, who are focused on international aid projects. After receiving feedback from faculty and PhD students at the bootcamp, the students presented their findings a few weeks later in hopes of winning the first Hayek’s Excellence in Research and Outreach (HERO) Prize. The $5,000 grant was awarded to a team of students who are helping fish farmers in Haiti develop a new food to feed tilapia.
“My hope for the center is to combine a rich learning environment with academic research that matters to people’s lives. I hope we can bring students and scholars together with programs like the HERO Prize that have a meaningful impact,” says Watson. “I want this center to be a place that truly and tangibly improves the lives of people in the United States and beyond.”