For entrepreneurs my age or older, there was really only one way to learn about entrepreneurship and innovation: The Hard Way. Knowing what to do and what not to do in a startup was an expensive process of trial and error, in real-time, in the real world, with real investors and real customers. If we were lucky, we might have picked up a mentor along the way who could provide occasional perspective and advice but, other than that, we were all pretty much on our own.
Fast-forward a decade and a dozen or so startups later to 2016. A group of successful entrepreneurs came together to form UMSL Accelerate, the University of Missouri – St. Louis innovation and entrepreneurship resource, with a shared mission of ensuring the next generation of founders and innovators don’t have to suffer through the same learning curve that we did, no matter the major.
Over the past two years, UMSL Accelerate has supported a collaboration between practicing entrepreneurs, faculty, and staff to develop a unique approach of combining curriculum and out of classroom experiences to aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators in any field or industry. The culmination of that work helped create UMSL’s new undergraduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship, including tracks in Computer Science, Education, Arts& Sciences, and Business. The certificate includes five new courses designed and taught by successful, practicing entrepreneurs. Ranging from an introductory course, Bus Ad 1001 Introduction to Entrepreneurship, that draws on a wide-range of fields to provide an interdisciplinary approach for students of all majors, to a course on social entrepreneurship, EDU 2002 Principals of Social Entrepreneurship, taught in conjunction with the College of Education and its EdPreneur Accelerator, and culminating with an experiential capstone course, BUS AD 4001 Accelerate Capstone, that helps student founders take their ventures from idea to launch over the course of a single semester, the entrepreneurship curriculum at UMSL is as good as any in the country.
As importantly, while the entrepreneurship faculty are committed to assisting the next generation of founders succeed in their startup endeavors, they also take very seriously the interdisciplinary nature of the entrepreneurship curriculum and have created an educational framework that supports students of all types and interests. In fact, the majority of students currently participating in the entrepreneurship classes at UMSL have no prior experience in entrepreneurship nor express a desire to be a founder in the future. Rather, most students elect to take these courses because they recognize that no matter what profession or industry they might find themselves in the future, being trained in the processes of entrepreneurship and innovation provides a fundamental differentiator in the workforce and positions them to lead companies and organizations forward in an ever-changing economy.
More so than any other field in academia, entrepreneurship education requires both classroom learning and experiential, or co-curricular, opportunities. UMSL Accelerate works closely with teaching faculty to ensure the highest quality co-curricular offerings including internships, a student club, training, and much more. It is not an exaggeration to say that UMSL is on the cutting edge of entrepreneurship education in this country and students and faculty alike are encouraged to get engaged today in the exciting and innovative efforts to support student innovators both in- and outside of the classroom!