Innovate Blue launches new entrepreneurial minor in LSA

By Michael Sugerman, Daily Staff Reporter
Published December 3, 2014

As extracurricular opportunities to grow business and encourage student entrepreneurship continue to expand, so do in-class offerings.

Starting with the Winter 2015 semester, the University will offer an entrepreneurship minor through LSA.

“Our students are known for their interest in applying their talents and creativity in response to a need or problem,” said University President Mark Schlissel in a statement. “This program will provide students with knowledge they can use to further ignite their imaginations and pursue creative solutions to real world challenges.”

The minor falls under the umbrella of Innovate Blue, a University program launched in March that works with University, local and commercial partners to spur entrepreneurial spirit in the classroom and outside it.

The 15-credit minor is broken down into four focus areas: core, practicum, electives and self-directed extracurricular experience. Innovate Blue will serve as a center for declaring the minor and advising. Two hundred students are expected to declare when the minor launches next year.

The core will consist of two courses that were piloted this fall, titled Entrepreneurial Business Basics and Entrepreneurial Creativity. The former is run through the Ross School of Business and a lecturer in the Department of Psychology teaches the latter.

The new curricular offering comes as a result of recommendations from a campus-wide entrepreneurship taskforce established in May 2012 to survey campus offerings in the field for undergraduates.

Thomas Zurbuchen, senior counselor for entrepreneurship innovation and Innovate Blue’s head, said in a release that the new minor is meant to address the challenges of the modern world.

“We believe all students have the capacity to be innovators,” he said. “This campus-wide minor provides them with the knowledge, skills and motivation to build the skills attributed to entrepreneurial behavior and innovative thinking necessary to succeed.”

Jeni Olney, student services program coordinator for entrepreneurial programs, said Entrepreneurial Business Basics outlines the fundamentals of business for aspiring entrepreneurs, whereas Entrepreneurial Creativity is “more of an intrinsic look at what makes entrepreneurs and creative thinkers different.”

“The two courses combined make up the foundation, the core for the new minor,” Olney said. “I refer to it as the hard and soft skills of being an entrepreneur.”

The minor’s “practicum” is also made up of two courses, titled Entrepreneurship Practicum and Advanced Entrepreneurship Practicum. Olney said these will be taken in tandem to provide a hands-on, yearlong immersion into entrepreneurship, moving from conceptualizing and pitching a business venture to implementing and launching it.

Additionally, a minimum of three elective credits is required to finish the minor. A complete list of qualifying courses is available on the Innovate Blue website.

The website also states that entrepreneurial extracurricular activities are required for a minimum of two semesters. This “activity” may include, for example, working on an outside business venture or participating in an entrepreneurship-focused student organization.

Olney added some of these course options were already available through the Center for Entrepreneurship’s Program in Entrepreneurship, which provides a certificate in entrepreneurship as opposed to a full minor.

The certificate program requires nine credits rather than 15, and is comprised of the two “core” classes and one elective.

The Innovate Blue website notes, however, that the PIE will be phased out and “is only available to those students who declared the PIE prior to Fall term 2015.”

Kristen Kerecman, marketing and communications manager for Innovate Blue, said the goal of implementing the minor was to make entrepreneurship education more accessible to non-Engineering students. Many electives previously offered through the PIE were focused on engineering.

“What came from this campus program in entrepreneurship … there was really a need for something, and a demand from students to really have something that was truly campus-wide and accessible to people from all backgrounds,” Kerecman said. “LSA is the natural home for something like that.”

Olney said the end goal is to create multidisciplinary teams in each of the University’s colleges, so each college can “have ownership over the curriculum that goes into the minor.”