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Universities Expanding/Adding Entrepreneurial Programs!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times today has an article  today on how colleges and universities are initiating and expanding entrepreneurial programs for students interested in founding and operating their own businesses.  The article comments:

“… colleges have become engaged in an innovation arms race. Harvard opened an Innovation Lab in 2011 that has helped start more than 75 companies. Last year, New York University founded a campus entrepreneurs’ lab, and this year Northwestern University opened a student start-up center, the Garage.

“Today’s students are hungry to make an impact, and we have to be responsive,” said Gordon Jones, the dean of a new College of Innovation and Design at Boise State University in Idaho and the former director of Harvard’s Innovation Lab.

Yet campus entrepreneurship fever is encountering skepticism among some academics, who say that start-up programs can lack rigor and a moral backbone.

Even a few entrepreneurship educators say that some colleges and universities are simply parroting an “innovate and disrupt” Silicon Valley mind-set and promoting narrow skill sets — like how to interview potential customers or pitch to possible investors — without encouraging students to tackle more complex problems.

“A lot of these universities want to get in the game and serve this up because it’s hot,” Mr. Jones said. “The ones that are doing it right are investing in resources that are of high caliber and equipping students to tackle problems of importance.”

In trying to develop rich entrepreneurial ecosystems, many institutions are following a playbook established years ago by Stanford and M.I.T., which involves academic courses, practical experience and an extended alumni advisory network…”

“…the quick start-up workshops offered on some campuses can seem at odds with the traditional premise of liberal arts schools to educate deliberative, critical thinkers.

“Real innovation is rooted in knowledge and durable concern and interest, not just ‘I thought of something that nobody ever thought of before,’” said Jonathan Jacobs, who writes frequently about liberal education and is the chairman of the philosophy department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York. “That’s not educating people, frankly.”

It would appear that colleges and universities should indeed consider offering and expanding entrepreneurial programs but should do so after students have been exposed to a sound liberal arts foundation of courses.

Tony

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