Butler introduces major in entrepreneurship and innovation

December 19, 2012
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Business students at Butler University already plan and launch their own firms through a pair of courses required of all freshmen and sophomores.

The idea, according to Dean Chuck Williams, is to give them real-life experiences that make their academic work more meaningful.

“It is a very powerful way to learn,” he said. “Our students go out and do something, then come to class and talk about it.”

Now students with a keen interest in running their own businesses after graduation will be able to focus on entrepreneurship and innovation as the College of Business debuts its eighth major.

Butler officials worked for more than a year to develop the program, along with a minor in the same subjects open to students campus-wide. The curriculum includes classes in creativity and innovation, entrepreneurial finance, social entrepreneurship, and Web design/commerce.

Students also will be required to take an existing practicum class—now optional—during which they work in teams to operate businesses for a semester.

Williams said it simply made sense for Butler to offer an entrepreneurship major, given the private school’s focus on experiential education.

“Students will actually get a chance to run a business,” he said. “At other schools, it’s mostly theory.”

Indiana already is home to two nationally recognized entrepreneurship programs: Ball State University’s Entrepreneurship Center and Indiana University’s Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

Although Williams expects interest to be robust among Butler’s  900 business students, he isn’t sure yet how many will choose the new field of study.

“I don’t know what the numbers will look like,” he said, “but I expect it to be a fast-growing major.”

Butler in recent years hired two faculty members with experience teaching entrepreneurship: Associate professors of management Denise Williams and Stephanie Fernhaber both earned Ph.D.s at IU. The College of Business also has added instructors with entrepreneurial experience of their own.

So what’s your take on the new program? Can Butler compete against its public university brethren for promising students and their startups?

Or how about an even more basic question: Can entrepreneurship be taught in a classroom?

  • Late to the party
    The Wharton School had an undergrad major in entrepreneurial management 35 years ago. Can Butler compete with a really good national university in this field? Butler's annual cost is more comparable to Penn than to a state school.
    • Good point
      Good point, Chris.
    • Real experience?
      "Experience teaching" is NOT real life entrepreneurship! They should fine adjunct professors who have actually done a real business plan, gone to a bank for financing, worked with real estate brokers and opened an actual business! From experience, I can tell you nothing in the classroom would prepare them for what you actually go through! However, you have to start somewhere!
    • Entrepreneurs.org
      Attended BSU for Don K.'s entrepreneurship program and later Butler U. and its good to have those 2 programs close by to feed from. You dont need quantity but quality students to make the program successful and Butler has quality. We are launching a private invite only for the top wanna be entrepreneurs in the world to come live/work for 8 weeks and build the best businesses in the world, called Venturecamp. Would be nice to work with the Bulter program. Its only 15 minutes away and could help turn some of these College Ventures into success stories.. Success breads Success and good start and growing field of education.
      Butler can do this. The curriculum focused on experiential learning during their Freshmen & Sophomore years will put students far ahead in the Entrepreneurial learning curve compared to existing programs. The higher professor-to-student ratio will also enhance and customize that learning for each student. If length of service was the only criteria evaluated when choosing services and products to an open market, we'd never have new organizations entering markets and thus less innovation.
    • 2 Things
      It seems to me that the focus of this Major is to prepare students for a career in the Tech Startup sector. I get frustrated that the word entrepreneur has more and more become associated with Tech Startups and less with conventional product/service oriented businesses. It seems that so many of this generation are trying to come up with the next "Big Thing" to hit the internet that they lose sight that passion, dedication and patience are the true virtues of a budding entrepreneur. The examples Deborah sited in her comment above paint a realistic picture of an entrepreneur. Also, what business will these kids be operating in their final semester? Is Butler starting a business to be operated soley by students or will they seek businesses out to allow these kids to work within?
      • LumenCache
        I have to laugh when I see these programs. They do focus on internet startups with a huge fail rate but that's what investors are enamored with. My startup has real projections of $25MM second year revenue and EBIT over $5MM. With the known revenue just from jobs dealers have sold we're in the black after our first year but this is still not enough to get investors and Angels to write a check. The real environment for startups here in Indy is a joke and all the successful startups were funded by out of state investors. The schools will do fine with their hype sale but it wont last. Incubators require successful startups that last to have the alumni that help in return. You cant just offer office space and academic advice..
      • Good Instructor
        Teach the "real world". Have instructor(s) who have been there, done that. Would be a tremendous value to the students. I have an excellent prospective instructor: degreed, many of years of operating a business expanded to several states. Will recommend he contact Butler to see if there is a good fit.
      • Yes they can
        This is a very natural step for the Butler Business school. They already have much of what they need in place with the Freshman Business Experience, Sophomore Real Business experience courses and the required 2 internships. Butler has very deep alumni support and a second to none Career Development department. I've wondered why they waited in adding this major! The main challenge is the resources required for a young college graduate to begin a company.

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