Steven Phelan Named Director of Kennesaw State University’s Leven School

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jun 22, 2021

Steven Phelan has what he describes as a “bias for action.”

Phelan, who joins the Michael J. Coles College of Business in July as the new director of the Michael A. Leven School of Management, Entrepreneurship, and Hospitality, said he enjoys working with people like entrepreneurs who can turn their ideas into action.

“Entrepreneurship is about making things happen,” Phelan said. “There’s no bureaucracy to hide behind. The buck stops with you. It’s invigorating to interact with people putting everything on the line to make something work.”

Steve Phelan, director of the Michael A. Leven School of Management, Entrepreneurship and Hospitality at Kennesaw State University

Supporting entrepreneurs has been a major part of Phelan’s career. His previous role was distinguished professor of entrepreneurship at North Carolina’s Fayetteville State University, where he once served as interim chair of the Department of Management, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship. Prior to that, he held positions as executive director for the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J. and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Phelan has also published multiple journal articles on entrepreneurship.

At UNLV, Phelan worked with the Las Vegas Business Press and the local angel investment community to cofound the Southern Nevada Business Plan Competition. The event, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, awards the top new business in the area with more than $50,000 in cash and prizes. Later, while at Rowan, he organized a mini “Shark Tank” pitch competition hosted by former “Shark Tank” host Daymond John.

Outside of his work with entrepreneurs, Phelan has also studied organizational behavior, management strategies, change management, and other critical business concepts.

“Throughout my work, I’d say the dependent variable has always been performance,” he said. “I’m always looking for ways to help organizations perform better. Whether it’s an entrepreneur, a nonprofit, or a large enterprise, it’s important to understand how we can make their strategy more coherent and get the organization behind it. Having bright ideas is one thing, getting everyone onboard to make something happen is another.”

Originally from Australia, Phelan earned his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Melbourne, a Master of Business Administration in marketing from Monash University, and a Ph.D. in economics from La Trobe University. Prior to becoming an academic, he worked as an analyst for Telstra, Australia’s leading telecommunications company and a member of the Fortune Global 500.

“Steven’s background in business, his excellent record as an educator, and his immense respect and support for entrepreneurs will no doubt make him an agent of innovation and excellence within the Leven School,” said Coles College Dean Robin Cheramie.

Phelan’s goals for the School involve demonstrating to the business community why they should be enthusiastic about partnering with the Coles College, and helping the management, entrepreneurship, and newly launched hospitality programs gain national and international recognition.

“There are so many great things going on at the School,” he said. “It’s my job to develop those programs into distinctive competencies for KSU. The first step is to listen carefully to all those with a stake in our success (including students, faculty, staff, and community partners) and create a shared vision for the future. We can then assemble the resources to make that future a reality.”

Also, as a first-generation college student who paid his tuition by working at a gas station during the week and playing keyboard in a Latin band on the weekend, Phelan is eager to work for a university like Kennesaw State where more than one-third of all students are first generation.

“Being the first person in your family to go to college can be scary,” he said. “I know what it’s like because I’ve been there.”

-Patrick Harbin

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