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New entrepreneurship courses to be offered

12/3/14 7:17am

Next semester, two courses in entrepreneurship will be offered to undergraduate students. BUSI 460 and BUSI 461: Foundations of Entrepreneurship I: Strategy, and II: Financing, are the first undergraduates courses offered by the Jones Graduate School of Business to deal with entrepreneurship, according to Kris Ramesh, the deputy dean of academic affairs at the Jones School.

“[The Jones School] is at a stage where we can actually start to invest more in the undergraduate program,” Ramesh said. “Several years ago, we started the undergraduate business minor program, which is flourishing. This seemed like the natural next step.”

Ramesh said Yael Hochberg, the Ralph S. O’Connor Associate Professor Of Entrepreneurship at the Jones School, made the courses possible.

“[Hochberg] is considered one of the foremost experts on accelerator programs, is very passionate about [these courses], and wants to reach out to as many undergraduate students as possible,” Ramesh said. “When she was hired, she was very focused on making this happen for undergraduates students.”

According to Ramesh, the two courses are the first part of a new four-course sequence of entrepreneurship curriculum designed based on observations of best practices at Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University and Cornell University.

“The vision is that undergraduate students will have a critical number of courses they can take in entrepreneurship,” Ramesh said. “We don’t know exactly what will happen down the road. The plan is for a new, full course sequence in entrepreneurship curriculum for undergraduates, but whether that will lead into an entrepreneurship certificate or minor or whatever, we don’t know at this stage. But these courses are here for the long run and hopefully a start of a greater focus on entrepreneurship.”

According to Ramesh, the offering of the new undergraduate courses signifies the embracement of early entrepreneurship by Rice.

“The whole university is thinking about entrepreneurship,” Ramesh said. “Everybody, including the Jones Business School and [business incubator] Rice Alliance, will be more focused on undergraduates.”

Ramesh said the courses, which have no prerequisites, are designed for all students, not just those looking to obtain a business minor.

“If you look at Rice undergraduate students, they’re all brilliant, innovative and creative, and the next thing is to translate that to commercial success,” Ramesh said. 

The two courses are each 1.5 credits and half a semester long, with BUSI 460 in the first half of the semester leading into BUSI 461 in the second. BUSI 460 deals with strategic considerations and decisions for startups, while BUSI 461 covers seed and early-stage funding.

SA Executive Vice President Trent Navran said the new coursework is very welcome, and that Hochberg is well qualified to lead the effort.

“These courses represent a fantastic development in offering legitimate coursework for the entrepreneurially inclined,” Navran, a McMurtry College senior, said. “[Hochberg], who has participated in the [SA’s] Rice Education of the Future Initiative, brings extensive entrepreneurial knowledge and experience to Rice. Having been at Technion (Israel), Stanford, Northwestern and MIT, she knows what it’s going to take to take Rice to the heights it aspires to in entrepreneurship.”

Navran said that although the new courses will help, Rice will need an organization dedicated to facilitating entrepreneurship within and from the university itself.

“We both agree, however, that courses are only the beginning, and that Rice needs a full-fledged inward facing entrepreneurship organization and space that can truly bring together the ideas and efforts of undergraduates, faculty and graduate students,” Navran said. “The Rice Alliance is excellent at its mainly outward-facing activities, and an inwards facing version of the Alliance is absolutely necessary to catalyze entrepreneurship on campus.”

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