By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
“The undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship has been a big hit,” Lynn Youngs says. “Enrollment has practically doubled in two years, with spring semester 2018 headcount almost 40 percent above last fall.”
That fact alone is cause for celebration, but the Executive Director of the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) in the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee Knoxville is equally pleased with the collegiate diversity among the students.
“We’ve significantly increased the mix of business and non-business students,” Youngs notes, a key to increasing cross-pollination in the classroom as well as ACEI’s other programs like the twice-a-year “Vol Court Pitch Competition.”
He emphasizes that the Haslam College does not drive the undergraduate degree program, but instead serves as its facilitator. Seven colleges are participating now which means each is offering a set of courses that are part of the minor. In addition to the Haslam College, they include the Colleges of Education, Health and Human Sciences; Engineering; Architecture and Design; Arts and Sciences; Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources; and Communication & Information.
“We really sought to be perceived as the facilitator,” Youngs explains. “It’s a campus minor.”
He adds that having ACEI support the minor is a natural given its three-fold mission, one part of which is to develop talent through classroom instruction, experiential activities, competitions, and internships. The other two elements of the mission are to connect the students (and their start-ups) to the regional business ecosystem and support meaningful entrepreneurial research.
“We’re seeing a higher level of engagement at the freshman level,” Youngs says. Other positive outcomes include the formation of CEO (College Entrepreneur Organization) and Maker clubs.
Perhaps the best indicator of impact comes in the formation of interdisciplinary teams that are forming in the classrooms and showing-up in competitions like “Vol Court.” ACEI is advocating for more teams, noting that successful start-ups have more than just an idea person.
“We are seeing steady growth in our competitions, increased interest in internships at the undergraduate level, and more interest in internships for credit,” Youngs adds.
ACEI’s efforts are also impacting other Haslam College initiatives like the undergraduate “Global Leadership Scholars” and several of the MBA programs. In the case of the former, students can now develop a comprehensive business plan in lieu of a research-based thesis as their capstone project.
“We see these trends also happening at the graduate level with the MBA offerings,” Youngs says, explaining that students can now substitute a business plan for the previous requirement for an employer-focused project.