Butler introduces major in entrepreneurship and innovation

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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?

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