By Motunde Oke
It is the time of the semester again to think about course selection for the summer and the fall. While it can be exciting choosing new classes, it can equally be both frustrating and confusing to choose classes that you don’t really know much about. Not to worry! I’ve decided to showcase an area that draws in all kinds of people- Entrepreneurship!
There are several emotions that people have when it comes to learning about entrepreneurship. Some people find it exciting because they think that it can provide the essential tools that they may need to develop their business ideas or startup. Others do not think they are business-minded, and therefore do not want anything to do with the topic. For some, they know the benefit of entrepreneurship but see the learning experience as a daunting one. However, studying entrepreneurship has been seen to be beneficial irrespective of one’s background, skill, or intended discipline.
I interviewed one of our instructors who recently started a new class called Application to Entrepreneurship (ENT 3100) to tell us more about it and to answer questions that students may have about the class and entrepreneurship in general.
Professor Michael Kehoe is an Assistant Teaching Professor of entrepreneurship in the UMSL College of Business Administration. He is also the Director of UMSL Accelerate, which is the first of its kind to provide underrepresented founders, equity-free funding, and access to University resources. Kehoe’s background is not linear to entrepreneurship. He has a bachelor of science and master of science in civil engineering and has worked as an environmental consultant before volunteering as a mentor for the Entrepreneurship Quest program.
Kehoe is currently teaching the new course which is required for both business administration and business administration accounting students. It is a junior-level course that focuses on applying principles and processes of entrepreneurship. It has a prerequisite called “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” where students learn about the concepts of Entrepreneurship. This new course, however, takes the essential concepts and applies them to a specific entrepreneurial opportunity that will be revisited all through the semester.
Students will work in a team of five, where they go and grow on a journey. It is for students who have an idea of starting a business. They can use the activities and strategies learned for their current or future companies.
According to Kehoe, the course is an important addition because the College of Business students have emphasis areas where students have to take a set of core courses and in order to have a well-rounded foundation, the entrepreneurship class was introduced. This course provides opportunity recognition, ideation, asset mapping, bootstrapping which are all relevant for either start-ups or established enterprises.
The structure of the course is designed to be asynchronous where a prerecorded video is released, and the students have a week to complete a quiz that tests their knowledge. Students are involved in a group project which helps them to use the learned knowledge and apply it to their entrepreneurial opportunity of the semester. For example, the students are taught skills such as strategies for brainstorming, entrepreneurship marketing strategies which are then applied all through the semester into their project. Understanding and respecting the times we are in; the students meet via Zoom and will correspond via emails and Canvas with their teams.
The course is designed to benefit anyone irrespective of their level of knowledge or entrepreneurship experience. While there are students who may feel optimistic about learning entrepreneurship, some others may feel overwhelmed by it. Nonetheless, the course teaches every student that there is a way to approach entrepreneurship in a systematic fashion where best practices currently available create the amount of validated learning effort. The learned skills are marketable, not just the St Louis area (a well-known big Startup hub for businesses), but the Midwest Area and the world at large!
In addition, the course will benefit people who do not intend to become entrepreneurs. Many employers value practical work experience and skills such as problem-solving, leadership skills, teamwork dynamics and so having these skills will get one’s foot into the door.
While this is an undergraduate course, there is a graduate course- Accelerated Capstone which is designed for students to have a well-thought-out business idea. In this course, the students are walked through a similar exercise to make them understand their customers, their paying points, and how they can provide a unique value proposition.
To conclude, UMSL has a 3-pronged model for entrepreneurship. A formal entrepreneurship curriculum, co-curricular student engagement opportunities (for example ENT Residence program that extends beyond the classroom), and the UMSL Accelerate Program. This 3-pronged approach enables students to have opportunities that can be applied to the real world and make UMSL have a unique learning environment for students who want to learn more.
ENT 3100 is one course to seriously consider as course registration starts. For more information about it, you can read this article by UMSL Daily. It is a course that provides life-learning skills whether you are entrepreneurially minded or not.