Earlier in the term this blog post discussed the need for Proctor's curriculum to remain agile as it seeks to prepare students for an ever-changing world. Perhaps the most agile of areas at Proctor occur during the Spring Term, as Project Period and Senior Project provide students with diverse learning opportunities tailored to enhance life-skills and expand the reach of the traditional classroom. Within both of these experiential opportunities, entrepreneurial studies has gained significant momentum over the past three years.
Two separate Project Periods (one led by alum Liz Blodgett-Smith '81 and one by Gregor Makechnie '91, Bibba Kahn and me) afford students the opportunity to learn from highly successful entrepreneurs and to develop personalized business plans they then pitched to potential investors. Additionally, one senior project this spring will produce a business plan that will then seek actual investment. In the classroom, similar opportunities to explore entreneurship exist as Economics students develop in-depth business plans as a culminating project this spring before presenting to a panel of investors for their final exam.
This week, Rushmore once again gave of his time generously to help students develop business plans as he Skyped from Johannasburg, South Africa for a 40 minute video conference with students who were in the early stages of their own business plans. Above, he discusses his first business model at Proctor: selling bagels outside of assembly! Following his own story, Rushmore gave advice to each of the small groups developing their own business plans:
His message to students last spring, and again this week, was a simple one: think creatively to develop an idea about which you are passionate, and then follow that passion while remaining realistic about your business plan:
Perhaps the interest in entrepreneurship stems from a desire to make exorbanent amounts of money, although I highly doubt this is the sole factor at play since students have been told repeatedly the majority of start-ups fail. More likely, Proctor's students are simply drawn to creative, innovative, and unique pursuits, and since we tend to graduate students who are incredibly independent thinkers, we have a responsibility to foster that interest with curricular opportunities to both develop skills and gain exposure to the entrepreneurial process.
Next fall, a new course offering, Social Entrepreneurship, will provide yet another opportunity for students to gain valuable understanding around starting businesses that can make a difference in the world.
Student interest in entrepreneurship has been fed by Project Period offerings, Senior Projects and Economics classes that have helped students develop business ideas.
The engagement of parents (current and past), trustees, and alumni has been critical to this renaissance of entrepreneurship studies on campus.
Last spring (and again this week via Skype), Stephen Rushmore Jr. '92 shared his entrepreneurial story that began by selling bagels outside of assembly!
We believe we have a responsibility to our independent minded, incredibly creative students to provide the experiences and teach the skills necessary to start a business that will make a difference in the world.
Some students, like Alex with her self-made handbag business, are already entrepreneurs!