By Kayleigh Omang
The entrepreneurial program at MSUM is one of only two undergraduate entrepreneurial programs for non-business majors in the United States.
“Today our region’s number one priority is tracking and attaining an educated workforce,” President Anne Blackhurst said. “Increasingly, that workforce powers an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is really vital to our region’s economic well-being and vitality. So that is just one reason why MSUM emphasizes entrepreneurship not only in our Paseka School of Business, but across our entire curriculum and that is why we have started entrepreneurial studies.”
The program, which started in the 2012–13 school year, is designed for non-business majors to learn entrepreneurial skills without being in advanced business classes. Students in the program are required to take five specially designed classes to attain a minor in entrepreneurial studies.
“We create a more collaborative environment, which is generally termed as student-centered learning, and we bring people from outside the field that know what’s going on in the field to teach the classes, including me personally,” said Kennan Meyer, the director for the center of entrepreneurial studies.
This program is a way to break the divide between the business college and the colleges of liberal arts, humanities and social sciences.
“We are trying to fill the gap,” Meyer said. “We can’t reduce tuition costs and we can’t promise students are going to make more money, but what we can do is give them the tools to do it andrise in their industry at a much more rapid pace by being able to market themselves and their ideas.”
With average tuition rates increasing at a much higher rate than average salaries, the entrepreneurial program aims to provide students with the tools they need to become creative, innovative and business-minded individuals.
“College students can no longer take on a $25,000 – $30,000 job to start,” Meyer said. “The cost is just too high and that’s why we are seeing shrinking enrollment all across the country in liberal arts, the humanities and the sciences.”
The entrepreneurial studies program has garnered interest across the state. On Feb. 24, Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited the Paseka School of Business to learn more about MSUM’s efforts with the program. Blackhurst, Meyer, six other faculty members, an alumnus of the program and seven current entrepreneurship students were invited to the meeting to speak on behalf of the program.
“I was incredibly impressed (by the program),” Klobuchar said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but this is exactly what we need for these times because you don’t want to squelch dreams and have every kid go into the one type of job. But what you do want is the skills you learn to be practical.”
Students in the program come from different backgrounds, including musicians, journalists, graphic designers, athletic trainers and photographers, but they all have one thing in common: an entrepreneurial spirit.
“I’m looking for students who have that entrepreneurial spirit,” Meyer said. “One out of 10 students is going to be an entrepreneur, and there is a spirit about them. When we talk about that spirit we mean wanting to be innovative, wanting to be creative, wanting to design things or put things together. And (even) more so, wanting to think critically and open their minds to ideas, not necessarily accepting those ideas but understanding them and moving forward.”
After graduating from the University of North Dakota with a degree in graphic design, Kailey Younggren decided to come back to college for this program specifically.
“There’s nothing like this in the area, and I didn’t want to take business classes with business majors when I know nothing about business,” Younggren said. “So I came here, and I’ve learned more here than I was expecting to. It’s really helping to get my business moving.”
In the years to come, the entrepreneurial program is expanding to include not-for-profit businesses also, since 90 percent of Minnesota nonprofits fail in their first five years.
As for other colleges, it’s uncertain whether or not this type of program will become more prevalent in curriculum.
“I love that it’s one of the first in the country and a great model for me to talk about to my colleagues,” Klobuchar said.