Sramana Mitra: I’m going to switch to a different topic. Our audience is entrepreneurs. Talk to me about what you are doing in the realm of entrepreneurship education – first at the undergraduate level and then at the graduate level.
Sher Downing: We currently have an undergraduate degree in Entrepreneurship and that includes coursework that allows them to work on tested ideas. We are in the process of rolling out our new Entrepreneurship Center. That will allow for more showcasing of those pieces. It also allows them to learn from each other.
One of the things that we’re very good here at the W.P. Carey School of Business is in supporting student ideas. We are quick to pull in other faculty members, staff members, and other people that have expertise when a student has an idea and needs some assistance moving forward on it. At the larger university level, we have a lot of entrepreneurship opportunity for applying for grant dollars and working through incubators to see if you can take your idea through to fruition and have it fully developed. We train them to understand the basics of being an entrepreneur. We also try to provide the support mechanism for getting them the applicable communications that they need – helping them find resources and helping them then to launch as needed.
At the graduate level, we tie this in with our masters degree. We tie this in with all of our research components as well. We also work with the university in terms of students looking out for what is available to them and where they are going with this. We recently had two students in the MBA program who came together and came up with an idea and took that out to a retailer. The retailer said, “We’re not interested in Idea X but we really would love to look at Idea Y.” This is data we’ve always been interested in – trying to figure out how to capture. Those students not only got an opportunity to present their ideas, but they got the opportunity to then get feedback and change a little bit the course of where they were going. They are now in the middle of working through with a retailer about how they can launch an application for them.
We really try to make that connection for them and we try to tie that back into what they’re learning in the classroom. Also, they learn from others who have gone before them – entrepreneurs who have failed, the types of failures that have occurred, and what could have been done differently to hopefully avoid that.
Sramana Mitra: Do you have any formal bridges with incubation and acceleration networks?
Sher Downing: We do that within the university and the university has tentacles that go out. We have a lineage that happens between us. There’re actually two incubator areas within the university. One is OKED. We also have an incubator called SkySong. Students have access to both of those and then anything that goes beyond that, rolls out through the university. That’s how they get the accessibility as well.
This segment is part 4 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Sher Downing, Executive Director of Online Academic Services at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University
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