By Sasha Nyary
Universities and colleges have long offered degrees in business. But Mount Holyoke is redefining entrepreneurship as a liberal arts program by offering a new minor in entrepreneurship, organizations, and society.
“We’ve purposely taken a multidisciplinary approach,” said Rick Feldman, visiting lecturer in economics. “It says it in our name. Not just entrepreneurship, but also organizations and the interplay with society. This new minor is driven by liberal arts vision and values—the combination of skills, knowledge, and critical thinking.”
The new minor was created in response to the needs of students, said Eva Paus, director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, professor of economics, and chair of the minor advisory committee. The proposal for the minor was the outcome of a year-long discussion in a faculty-staff seminar and was approved by the faculty in May.
“This minor is driven by our realization that our students will work in a world where the boundaries between organizational forms are becoming increasingly blurred and where they are likely to move across organizational contexts several times in the course of their work life,” said Paus. “They may, for example, start out in a nongovernmental organization, go to a government agency, and end up in business—or the other way around.”
Entrepreneurship as an area of interest has risen significantly across the globe over the past few years, Paus said, noting that the College has long offered a minor in complex organizations, which this new curriculum supersedes.
“People are increasingly searching for greater creativity in all areas, and increasingly there are not enough good jobs being offered,” she said. “So you create your own job, or bring creativity to problems in existing organizations, working with others in diverse teams.”
Mount Holyoke is the perfect place
As a founding member of Valley Venture Mentors, Feldman had worked closely with several Mount Holyoke students before coming to campus. He noted that as a women’s institution, the College is the perfect place to explore entrepreneurship.
“A lot of women have started to move into the entrepreneurial area and there’s a glass ceiling there too,” he said. “There are all kinds of barriers, such as men having easier access to capital. This is the perfect institution to take the lead in bringing a whole new perspective, the right perspective for the future.”
Feldman is teaching two courses in entrepreneurship this year. He also serves as the College’s entrepreneurship coordinator, working with student groups and outside organizations to encourage and facilitate projects.
He is joined by another visiting faculty member, Beatrix Dietz, a professor from the Berlin School of Economics and Law, one of the College’s partner universities. She is teaching International Marketing and Organizations, Gender, and Management this fall.
With classes taught through a dozen departments, the minor fits in well with the College’s curriculum-to-career initiatives, The Lynk Integrated Learning Initiative and the Nexus concentrations. Courses are required in each of five areas: entrepreneurship; organizations, law, and power; the global economy; global and cultural intersections; and data and technical analysis.
The appeal to students
The minor’s versatility means that it works well with any major, said Paus.
“It inspires students to analyze the vexing problems of our times and gives them skills to address them,” she said.
Camila Mirow ’19 is excited about the new minor and is exploring how it will enhance her other studies. She is a biology major working toward a certificate in coastal and marine sciences, and is taking Feldman’s class, Entrepreneurship: Opportunity and Impact.
“I took this class because I really like engineering,” Mirow said. “I like the process of engineering. And entrepreneurship is like having a problem, doing the research, and finding different ways to solve that problem, whether it's, say, a societal issue or an economic one.”
Leah Rapperport ’18, who is majoring in politics and minoring in art studio, spent her summer piloting an entrepreneurship program for high school age women in Boston. She enrolled in Entrepreneurship: Social and Economic Impact in Practice. With an idea for a business of her own, she meets regularly with Feldman for guidance on how to proceed. She intends to take more courses in the minor with an eye toward adding it to her program.
Rapperport likes hearing from her classmates, who are interested in issues ranging from increasing women’s economic literacy to creating efficient food supply methods and expanding student health resources. And she says the class is filling in gaps in her knowledge that come from being self-taught.
“I am enjoying learning the theory of business and entrepreneurship,” she said. “I’d rather be guided by best practices than only by trial and error.”
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