Students in other fields can join entrepreneurship programs
Entrepreneurship means different things to different people. One definition that unites these assorted ideas is that entrepreneurship is the process of discovering, evaluating, and pursuing opportunities, which when done successfully creates new ideas, products, companies, and industries.
Given the challenges in navigating the entrepreneurship process, university faculty, staff, and supporters often face two important questions:
1. Can entrepreneurship be taught?
2. If so, how should we teach it?
Some suggest that universities are ideal venues for aspiring entrepreneurs to learn important concepts, make important social connections, and receive mentorship, which increase their chances for success. Others counter that critical entrepreneurship skills really can’t be taught in a classroom, but can only be learned through hands-on experience.
At the Harbert College of Business, we believe that both views are correct. Consequently, we have designed our entrepreneurship program to teach, coach, mentor, and inspire students as well as provide them other critical resources they need to succeed.
Inside the classroom, we focus on helping them learn important business concepts like finance, marketing, and leadership, along with focusing on critical entrepreneurship issues, such as how to identify opportunities, grow a business, and raise capital. We also design class activities to enhance their teamwork, critical thinking, and presentation skills.
We then encourage students to apply their knowledge and skills outside the classroom during events like the Halloween Pitch and Tiger Cage Business Idea Competitions, where they also can win some initial funding to develop their business ideas. In addition, we offer them several on-campus places to work, obtain feedback, and receive mentorship, like the Innovation Lab and Tiger Cage Student Business Incubator. Hosting multiple events each semester, like Women in Entrepreneurship Week and the Entrepreneurship Summit, gives them opportunities to network with alumni and other important members of the entrepreneurship community.
These program features also provide several attitudinal benefits for students, such as increasing their confidence (“I can do this”) and psychological resilience (“I can overcome this”). Entrepreneurship is difficult, so students who develop tenacity and supportive networks can often keep pushing their ideas forward, even when things don’t go as planned.
This year, we’ve made some exciting program changes that open up our entrepreneurship courses to students across campus. Non-Business students frequently participate in our entrepreneurship events, but they historically faced hurdles, like satisfying course prerequisites or finding space in their schedules, to taking our classes. We have now successfully removed many of these barriers and continue working on removing the rest, including exploring ways to add non-Business courses as electives to the entrepreneurship minor.
“What kind of job can I get if I study entrepreneurship?” is a question many students have asked me the past 25 years. “That’s hard to say,” I’ve often answered, “because, no matter what your major, the jobs, companies, and industries where you will build your career five, 10, and 20 years after graduation may not exist yet.”
We believe that this is the fundamental value of the entrepreneurship program at Auburn. Regardless of whether students develop their passions for and skill sets in art, business, engineering, science, or other fields during their time here, cultivating their entrepreneurial mindset inside and outside the classroom helps equip them to make the most of the opportunities and overcome the challenges they will encounter in a rapidly changing world.
Lowder Eminent Scholar and
Professor of Entrepreneurship
Harbert College of Business