This year, U of L started a minor in entrepreneurship for undergraduate students. (Find out more at www.Louisville.edu.)
“Over the years throughout the country, we’ve seen students drop out of colleges to try to start a business. Small-business failure rates have been high, and people may not have had the business foundations or support needed to survive and thrive,” says Sharon Kerrick, former business owner, and now executive in residence at U of L’s College of Business and the person overseeing the new minor. “We wanted to start a program that would give them the tools to make wise business decisions.”
Like the IMBA program, the minor in entrepreneurship blends classic business subjects with practical skills and work on projects that could ultimately turn into a real business, according to Kerrick. Guest speakers are a big part of the program, exposing students to Kentucky leaders that provide in-depth looks inside the world they aspire to join. Students also get experience in developing and presenting business plans.
“Our program treats the classroom as a corporate environment,” Kerrick says. “Students are challenged to think ‘what if?’ in a variety of critical thinking areas and to develop leadership skills, demonstrate strong business and economic concepts, utilize technology, challenge their risk-taking tolerance, form partnerships with the business community, and experience every aspect of a business through a variety of business/entrepreneurship simulations, and experimental learning formats.
“Our students visit the monthly Venture Club luncheon, negotiate mock bank loans from commercial lenders, meet with intellectual property attorneys, take field trips to famous entrepreneurs’ offices to meet with them, and attend events such as IdeaFestival whereby several of our students met Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Corp.,” says Kerrick. “The culminating experience in this minor is a field experience whereby students actually start the business they have worked on throughout the program or will work with a startup or inside a corporation that supports intrapreneurial growth and thinking.”
Kerrick says young people realize they may need different skills than their parents did because they come to college having already seen the effects of global competition.
“They may have seen a parent’s company get bought out or closed down,” she says, “or a job exported, or someone laid off. They realize a career, for them, is probably not going to be with one company. We want to provide them with the progressive critical-thinking skills that will enable them to grow and introduce them to the support mechanisms that entrepreneurs need.”
To read the Kentucky Living February 2008 feature that goes along with this supplement, go to Masters in Entrepreneurship.