Total-immersion business ed
Colleges create residences where students can stay in business mode night and day.
Blake Robertson started his first company in high school but quickly realized he did not have the skills to run a business. "I was filling out forms to apply for a business license and asking people in the filing office for business advice," he says.Skip to next paragraph
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When Mr. Robertson learned that the University of Maryland offered the option of combining an undergraduate degree program with a residential entrepreneurship program, he knew it was the right fit.
"I needed the resources to take my inventions to the next level," he says. "This program provided that."
The Hinman Campus Entrepreneurship Opportunities (CEO) program at the University of Maryland, launched in 2000 as the first residential entrepreneurship program in the country, attracts students from majors as varied as business, engineering, and psychology.
Some of these students are already running successful businesses. Others haven't yet jumped into the real-life business world but are drawn to the idea of supplementing their classroom education with the informal business expertise they can pick up in the program residence.
These students live together in special dorms designed to encourage entrepreneurial thinking. Not only can their dorm rooms double as offices, but between classes students network, toss around suggestions for start-up funds, and attend seminars on creativity.
For Robertson the program has meant a chance to spend the last three years working with a University of Maryland professor developing some of the ideas he eventually hopes to market: prototypes for a GPS tracking system, variable-speed brake lights, and a security monitor for day-care centers.
At the same time, he's been able to learn the fundamentals of business even while pursuing a major in computer engineering.
"[The program] has encouraged me to appreciate the business side of things," he says. "I am learning that entrepreneurship is not all about inventing."
"The program provides students with experiential learning 24 hours a day," says Karen Thornton, program director of Hinman CEOs.
"[Our students] want to start businesses, and we give them the resources and education to ensure that they are making the right steps."
A number of schools offer classes in venture capital and business ethics, but only a handful offer residential entrepreneurship programs that allow students to be immersed in entrepreneurial thinking even in their dormitories.
"We are providing a living and learning space where there are activities outside the classroom that complement activities inside the classroom," says Justin Craig, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and faculty member in residence at Weatherford Hall, a residential entrepreneurship program at Oregon State University that opened its doors this fall.
The Weatherford dorms offer a wealth of business equipment ranging from computers, fax machines, and copiers to conference rooms.
In addition, the Weatherford program tries to offer students access to successful entrepreneurs who can share firsthand experiences.
The dorm has two guest suites for entrepreneurs who will give lectures, meet with students, and provide informal mentoring and then spend the night on campus.
This fall, the program has scheduled overnight visits from more than two dozen executives, ranging from the founder of classmates.com to the president of a local consulting firm.