At Wayne State University, you don’t have to be a business school student to learn real entrepreneurial skills. The university offers a graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurship and innovation (E&I) certificate program to all students regardless of their field of study. Whether students want to develop a new concept or are looking for management skills, this certificate program offers resources and mentoring opportunities. Professor Jeff Stoltman, Director of the E&I Program at the Mike Ilitch School of Business, talks about the program.
What are the prerequisites for the Entrepreneurship and Innovation certificate program and how does the program work?
Jeff Stoltman: One of the advantages of our program is that there are no prerequisites for most courses. We offer any student of any program on campus the opportunity to explore this area and learn what it takes to build something from scratch. A few courses offered under the program require prerequisites, and these are specialized courses, including finance and engineering courses.
The first step is for the student to register for the survey course, where they will explore the ecosystem, learn about the types and stages of business development, and roll up their sleeves and learn by doing. Students learn to spot opportunities, develop a concept for a new product, service, or solution aligned with those opportunities, and then create a business model.
Students then choose from a group of elective courses in subjects such as technology development, financing and operating a business, and marketing. Other elective courses offer students a way to explore specific industries, such as the music industry, medical technology, and financial technology.
We offer this range of courses at the undergraduate and graduate level, and we offer an E&I concentration as part of the MBA program. We are in the process of finalizing an undergraduate minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and this would eventually replace the undergraduate certificate.
What type of student is best suited for the E&I program?
There are two types of students who benefit the most from our program: the first is the student who pursues the idea of ââventuring out on their own. The other type of student is one who is curious about how it all works and wants to add value to an organization. This type of student can become a more valuable employee because they have learned to be comfortable with discomfort and to seize an opportunity.
The E&I program is touted as being multidisciplinary in nature, covering specialties such as social work, the arts, engineering and more. What was the impetus behind this?
Students benefit when we break down barriers between different disciplines and specialties and support their learning efforts. Exponentially better solutions come from having different perspectives. Over the years, we have received requests from students and programs across campus to allow students to enroll in courses that introduce topics in marketing, accounting, management and, more recently, the chain. supply.
What are the major challenges that this program seeks to meet?
We need to tackle preconceived notions about what entrepreneurship is and how to be successful. Many believe that entrepreneurs are born to be entrepreneurs. There are others who believe that success is about knowing the right people. Success is also learning from the mistakes of others and having a growth mindset.
We also have to fight against the theater of innovation and the idea that all of this is performative at some level. It is true that the way you present an idea matters, but the quality of the idea, the skill and character of the people behind it are what matters most.
Many students take the E&I program in order to get that first job or to advance in their careers. However, entrepreneurship doesn’t work that way. You start the business, take the risk, and lean towards the possible.
Furthermore, when students see entrepreneurship as a different path, it is difficult to convince them to come and experience the learning we have to offer. Therefore, we must inform them of the benefits of the program, whatever path they choose.
What could be a misconception about this program?
I think the biggest misconception is that there is the false equivalence that exists between the entrepreneurial knowledge provided by extracurricular activities or pitch competitions versus college courses. The extracurricular approach pits classes and graduation against learning about entrepreneurship, and through this program, you can earn academic credits while you develop your idea.
Another misconception is that this program is irrelevant if the students are not trying to start a business. We work to make sure students understand that entrepreneurship and innovation happens everywhere. We see applications in many industries, from mobility to healthcare, the arts and even national defense.