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Two University initiatives highlight entrepreneurship

By : Eric Coker

A pair of University initiatives are bringing entrepreneurship to the academic forefront.

The first initiative, Entrepreneurship Across the Curriculum, is aimed at students and modeled after the successful Languages Across the Curriculum. Small stipends will be given to faculty members who agree to offer an entrepreneurship component on a continuing basis in their classes.

The second initiative will help faculty members who are considering starting their own business. Zhihao Yang, CTO and co-founder of NanoMas Technologies, will serve as special adviser for entrepreneurship and work with faculty.

Eugene Krentsel, assistant vice president for technology transfer and innovation partnerships, called the enterprises “some of the most exciting entrepreneurship initiatives to come out of Binghamton University.”

Krentsel was scheduled to unveil the initiatives — which are sponsored by the Office of Technology Transfer and Innovation Partnerships and the N.Y. Center of Excellence (S3IP) — Nov. 4 at the Southern Tier Business and Entrepreneur Conference on campus.

In Entrepreneurship Across the Curriculum, faculty members will be able to submit proposals to a committee made up of faculty from various departments and representatives from groups such as Catalysts for Intellectual Capital 2020 (CIC2020).

The committee, which is chaired by H. Stephen Straight, professor of anthropology and linguistics, will decide which projects will be funded.

“Our role as sponsors is to get the ball rolling, and leave decision-making to the committee,” Krentsel said.

“Every discipline has the opportunity to have a component of entrepreneurship added to a syllabus — be it nursing, arts, science or engineering,” Krentsel said. “If you are a sculptor, you may eventually open your own gallery. If you are pre-med, you may run your own clinic at some point.”

Faculty members will be required to devote a certain minimum of class hours to the entrepreneurship component, said Krentsel, who stressed that faculty members need only adjust their syllabi to provide a “teaser” to get students interested.

“Faculty are independent on how they design their courses and we don’t want to stifle their creativity on that,” he said. “If they want to have a guest lecturer in the class, it’s up to them, as long as the class has that component.”

Krentsel hopes students will go to faculty members and encourage them to apply for funding.

“This is not a new major or minor; this isn’t even a certificate,” he said. “This is truly going across the curriculum. We are seeing a lot of interest from students. Every student I’ve talked to has been incredibly excited. CIC2020 was ecstatic.”

The Entrepreneurship Across the Curriculum committee hopes to receive proposals in December and make funding decisions by January 2010, said Ken McLeod, a committee member and bioengineering professor.

The initiative is a small, but key step in helping to revitalize the economy, McLeod said.

“We’re hoping that the entrepreneurial-thinking faculty will step forward and introduce this in their classrooms,” he said. “That may encourage students to take other courses with a focus on entrepreneurship or meet with entrepreneurship graduates.

“You have to start small and let this grow,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but hopefully over the next 10-20 years, we’ll see the revitalization of the upstate economy through hundreds, maybe thousands of ventures started by our graduates.”

NanoMas Technologies is one such successful venture at the University: A business that began and thrived in the Innovative Technologies Complex’s Start-Up Suite.

Yang will impart his wisdom as special adviser, offering hands-on help, encouragement and explanations to faculty members unsure how to proceed with their own business plans. Yang, who has agreed to serve as the adviser for six months, will have his own office on the second floor of the Innovative Technologies Complex.

“He wants to give back to the University and feels strongly about the opportunities we provided his company to grow in our Start-Up Suite,” Krentsel said. “It’s great for us to have someone who can not only teach it, but say, ‘Hey, I’ve been there. I started one. Here’s what it took.’”

The entrepreneurship initiatives are one way to plant the seeds of future growth, Krentsel said.

“In order to make a difference, there has to be a critical mass,” he said. “We’re not pushing students to abandon other plans and become entrepreneurs. But we want to expose them to the fact that this is something you need to know. You may like it and you may want to try it.”


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Last Updated: 10/14/08