Infinity Hall, a state-of-the-art new residence hall opening this fall just two blocks from the University of Florida campus, is perhaps a harbinger of how far entrepreneurship has come on the college campus in the last decade. The University of Florida is dubbing the building, which can house up to 308 students and has 20,000 square feet of workspace, the nation’s first entrepreneurial-based academic living community.
It has amenities that are the stuff of aspiring entrepreneurs’ dreams. Residents can access 3-D printers in labs to build prototypes, huddle in collaboration spaces on the first floor and even write down ideas on glass walls in their kitchens while heating ramen noodles. The university’s incubator –GatorHatchery—and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, will also have office space in the building, allowing students, many of whom will hail from the university’s Innovation Academy, to engage daily with entrepreneurship faculty.
“It is a place where you can live, breathe and eat entrepreneurship and engage in entrepreneurial behavior,” says Michael Morris, the academic director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business. “Students living there can work with other students as they start to try launching a new business, and feed off and support each other. It is like a jam in terms of musicians where their creativity bounces off each other and more happens as a result.”
UNDERGRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN LEADING THE ENTREPRENEURIAL CHARGE
Dormitories, or floors of residence halls, solely devoted to entrepreneurship are just one example of how mainstream entrepreneurship has come on college campuses in the last few years. In most cases, undergraduate business schools have been the ones leading the charge, adding more classes to the course catalogues, introducing entrepreneurship majors and minors and encouraging inter-disciplinary campus wide entrepreneurship programs. Some business schools have even gone so far as to include entrepreneurship as part of the core curriculum.
Mark Zuckerberg may have dropped out of Harvard College to start Facebook, but increasingly undergraduate students are staying in school to learn the basics of doing a startup and to try their hand at the art and science of entrepreneurship. Today, there are more than 400,000 students a year who take courses in the subject and almost 9,000 faculty members teach classes in the area, according to a 2013 report from the Kauffman Foundation titled “Entrepreneurship Education Comes of Age on Campus.”
“It’s a very exciting time for entrepreneurship on colleges campuses because the overall driver, the economy, is changing and smaller and entrepreneurial businesses are of great interest to students,” says Ted Zoller, a senior fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. “There’s not a top business school right now that doesn’t have entrepreneurship on the top of its list in terms of building out a strong ecosystem or stack of offerings for its students.”
DO A STARTUP IN YOUR FRESHMAN YEAR?
The University of Washington’s Olin Business School is even exposing students to the basic tenants of entrepreneurship – and the experience of building a company – as early as freshman year. Clifford Holekamp, a senior lecturer in entrepreneurship and director of the school’s Entrepreneurship Platform, was behind a push to give Management 150, a core orientation class required of all Olin undergraduate business majors, an entrepreneurship spin. The class teaches students how the different disciplines of business, such as marketing and finance, interact with each other.
About three years ago, the school changed the focus of the class so that students would learn how to construct a new business on their own, rather than dissecting an existing one such as IBM or Google, as they used to for the final class project. Today, students in the class are put into groups, required to come up with an idea for a company and create a business plan. At the end of the class, they present their company in a competition, and the winning team gets a monetary prize.
“They’re learning all the same things they did before in the class, but we added the extra perk of having them from day one think about innovation,” Holekamp says. “Even if they end up becoming a corporate accountant and never do anything entrepreneurial, they’ll still have an appreciation for entrepreneurship and that creative thinking mindset.”