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February 09, 2015 | Tom Ballard

UT starting interdisciplinary entrepreneurship minor for undergraduates

UT KnoxvilleBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

There’s another building block that has been added to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Knoxville/Oak Ridge region.

Starting this fall, undergraduate students at the University of Tennessee can earn a minor in entrepreneurship regardless of the college in which they are enrolled.

The interdisciplinary opportunity comes as the result of strong collaboration among six colleges with each contributing courses to the mix of required classes and electives.

“When we first started this journey, we asked each college to bring what you have to the table,” said Lynn Youngs, Executive Director of the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Haslam College of Business.

Youngs stressed that, while the Anderson Center took the lead in coordinating the activities, the program that resulted would not have been possible without commitment and cooperation across the university. He first mentioned the idea in a article in August 2013. Final approval came February 2 from the Faculty Senate.

“Our approach was to be collaborative in design and operation,” Youngs explained, adding, “Not only did we want to hit the basics, but we wanted to be able to add courses in the future that make this minor very unique.”

As the members of the planning group met, Youngs said they found a number of entrepreneurial courses within the various colleges, but little alignment with offerings of other academic units.

“Our team really worked to build a strong foundation for the minor,” he explained.

The final curriculum design includes two required courses and three electives to meet the 15-semester hour minimum to earn the entrepreneurship minor. One of the required courses will be taught by the Haslam College. It is an introduction to entrepreneurship that Youngs describes as helping answer the question: “Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?”

The second required course, which is currently offered in one version or another in three colleges, is designed to help students understand the basics of starting a business. Those seeking the minor are eligible to select which of the three they prefer.

The remaining three courses will be chosen from electives available across all participating colleges. These entrepreneurship-designated courses no longer will require special instructor permission for enrollment from students outside the college offering the course. (For a current schematic of the required and optional courses, click here.)

“The interdisciplinary nature of the program with six colleges already involved gives us the opportunity to mix business and non-business minds and skills,” Youngs noted. “There’s strong interest from students and faculty.”

In addition to the Haslam College, others participating initially are the Colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources; Architecture and Design; Arts and Sciences; Education, Health and Human Sciences; and Engineering.

Even though the minor is not officially available until this fall, Youngs says that students who are enrolled in eligible classes this semester and will not graduate before December can earn credit toward the minor.

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