Starting next school year, students will have the opportunity to pursue degrees in two nontraditional disciplines at the University – entrepreneurship and robotics.
At the Board of Regents meeting June 19, the Regents and administration included funding for an undergraduate entrepreneurship minor and a robotics masters and doctorate degree in the fiscal year 2015 budget.
Though the approval of funding is a recent development, students and faculty have been pushing for these new degrees for a while.
The new entrepreneurship minor began with a partnership between Central Student Government and Thomas Zurbuchen, professor of space science and aerospace engineering in 2013. Zurbuchen and student leaders gathered input from all different backgrounds, majors and student organizations to understand what students would like to see from an entrepreneurial degree.
Zurbuchen then brought together campus administrators from different schools and programs to push for the degree. His goal was to give students of all different disciplinary backgrounds the tools they needed to not only form startups, but also begin to grow ideas and turn them into entrepreneurial identities.
“I think that an entrepreneurial minor like this basically equips the student with the toolset for taking an idea and doing it, but also enables a stage on which you actually do it,” Zurbuchen said. “In other words, not just about the tools but to actually going forward and grow these ideas and learn how it feels to actually make an idea happen.”
The entrepreneurial minor will be located in LSA and is expected to open in January 2015. The program will have two core classes, which have already been opened for the fall semester.
The first is called Entrepreneurial Creativity and is run out of the Psychology department to give students a feel for how to think in an entrepreneurial way. The second is called Entrepreneurial Business Basics, an overview on capital, management and marketing basics needed to form a startup.
Former CSG president Michael Proppe, who was involved in the creation of the minor, echoed a similar sentiment to Zurbuchen.
“What entrepreneurship can do is more of just starting a business, it’s able to empower people to take their ideas and to put them into practice,” he said. "It’s really exciting to see that students are going out on their own and doing things and solving problems.”
The second two new degrees are a masters and doctorate in robotics, which have already accepted a handful of students for the fall.
These degrees are headed by Dawn Tilbury, associate dean for research and graduate education, one of the advocates on an associate steering committee for robotics along with members of many other engineering professors in different concentrations.
Tilbury, along with other faculty members, said she felt a robotics degree would enable students to study robotics across many different engineering fields, instead of having to focus on one aspect of robotic engineering.
The degree program has two new core classes: Mathematics for Robotics, a graduate level math course to introduce students to the basic math needed for the study of robotics; and Introduction to Robotic Systems, a hands-on class to expose students to different robotic system and sensory manipulation.
Tilbury said the new robotic degree programs would appeal to students who are interested in a broader study of robotics instead of solely focusing on a particular robotic engineering field.
“I think that the students who take the Ph.D program in robotics will have a much broader vision about robotics, instead of deeper vision in their disciplines, say mechanical engineering or aerospace engineering,” Tilbury said. “The focus is on robotics instead of one of the disciplines.”