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Program to offer unique semester

By Amrutha Sivakumar, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 26, 2013

Sick of cookie-cutter syllabi? The Flipped Semester is ready to serve Michigan students who have a knack for the unconventional.

The Flipped Semester is a proposed program unique to the University that would allow students to take part in self-directed entrepreneurial projects while earning nine academic credits.

The program was proposed by a group of students within the Entrepreneurship Commission of the Central Student Government. Currently, they are trying to measure and build student interest for the program, while simultaneously working to gain approval from University administrators.

Students enrolled in the program would be immersed in a 50-student learning community and eight to 10 professors with entrepreneurial experience.

Business senior Ryan Strauss, a member of the commission, said the community would offer a “transformative opportunity” for entrepreneurial students.

“We want to empower students with a new space that will allow them to collaborate,” Strauss said. “They can create something incredible that would be difficult to do while enrolled in full-time courses.”

Strauss said he expects the program to be a reality by fall 2013 or winter 2014.

Business junior Mathias Arkayin, another member of the commission, hopes that students would use the Flipped Semester to undertake “risky” projects, such as starting a company, recording an album or filming a movie. Students would be able to appropriate time to these endeavors if a curriculum were designed to provide credit hours for them, he said.

“The idea is that we want to let students take a calculated risk under an environment that is risk-averse,” Arkayin said. “At the core, we are trying to free up student time so they can devote more of their time towards their passion.”

Although specific details regarding the admission process to the program haven't been decided, Engineering sophomore Dan Rodak said Flipped Semester would be highly selective. Though past entrepreneurial experience would not be a necessary prerequisite, it would signal a strong candidate.

Different from existing independent study curriculum, the Flipped Semester would facilitate cross-communication among its members. Multiple students would be able to work together on the same entrepreneurial initiative and gain help from one another.

“There is going to be a community formed, and they will be able to rely on one another and collaborate with one another in smaller space,” Rodak said.

Strauss believes the long-term entrepreneurial projects in which students would partake during the program would allow students to showcase their creations to employers and demonstrate their capabilities outside of the classroom setting.

The Flipped Semester organizers are currently in meetings with University administrators to talk about credit-collaboration with other programs such as the Program in Entrepreneurship. To be a part of the “larger ecosystem” of the University, organizers said accreditation is important.

CSG President Manish Parikh did not doubt the plausibility of the Flipped Semester, provided that administrators and students alike would back it.

“(The Flipped Semester) is a bit of a crazy idea,” Parikh said. “But I genuinely believe that those are the only ideas worth pursuing — crazy, ambitious, inspiring ideas.”

-- Daily Staff Reporter Giacomo Bologna contributed to this story

Follow Amrutha Sivakumar on Twitter at @xamrutha and follow The Institution on Twitter at @TMDInstitution.