Wake Forest University develops innovative entrepreneurship minor

By Maggie Barrett
February 2, 2006

Wake Forest University has developed a new, interdisciplinary minor in entrepreneurship that is among the first of its kind in the country. The minor in entrepreneurship and social enterprise was approved by Wake Forest's faculty in November 2005 and is being offered to students for the first time in spring 2006.

Because the minor integrates entrepreneurship with the liberal arts, it differs from entrepreneurship programs at most universities.

"This is the first minor that incorporates liberal arts courses with foundations of entrepreneurship and creativity into a program that can be tailored to students' specific interests," said Betsy Gatewood, director of Wake Forest's Office of Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts. "We are also delighted that it has a strong emphasis on social enterprise since it fits so nicely with Wake Forest's motto, 'Pro Humanitate' (for humanity)."

The minor is open to students of any major. Students can tailor the minor to their individual interests and areas of study.

"This minor would work with English, it would work with biology, or any other major offered through the undergraduate College of Arts and Sciences or the Calloway School of Business and Accountancy," said Bill Conner, professor of biology and director of curriculum initiatives in the Office of Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts. "There is clearly a push to make entrepreneurship a part of undergraduate curricula across the nation. We consider ourselves model makers in the area of bringing entrepreneurship and liberal arts together."

The new minor requires 18 credit hours including six from introductory courses, three from an approved internship or independent study, and nine from electives.

There are two introductory courses. The first course, "Foundations of Creativity and Innovation," is taught by Lynn Book, an expert on creativity brought to Wake Forest to develop and teach the course. It investigates the sources of creativity and engages students in hands-on exercises designed to enhance all types of creativity. Book is a visiting associate professor of theatre and dance.

The second course, "Foundations of Entrepreneurship," covers the nuts and bolts of creating and sustaining ventures — both for profit and not-for-profit — and examines how entrepreneurs craft innovative responses to societal needs.

Students who want a more business-oriented version of the second course can take a more advanced course in entrepreneurship offered through the Calloway School of Business and Accountancy.

Students can choose electives from among 68 liberal arts courses already offered at Wake Forest, as well as numerous new courses designed specifically for the minor. One of the new elective courses is an upper-level seminar titled, "Free Trade, Fair Trade: Independent Entrepreneurs in the Global Market." Taught by Jeanne Simonelli, professor and chair of anthropology at Wake Forest, the course compares free trade policies with fair trade practices in order to identify barriers that prevent independent producers around the world from succeeding in today's globalized market.

"There are 20 students in the class who are majoring in various liberal arts disciplines. With the exception of first-year seminars, they might never be in class together," said Simonelli. "The students — some anthropology students, some economics students, among others — bring different perspectives, ideas and knowledge to the table and are using those to learn from each other and work together towards a common goal."

In 2003, Wake Forest was selected as one of eight colleges and universities in the nation to receive a $2.16 million grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for developing programs in entrepreneurship. Of the eight schools, Wake Forest is the only liberal arts institution. After receiving the grant, the university devised a five-year, multi-component plan to integrate entrepreneurship into the undergraduate, liberal arts experience at Wake Forest.

The new minor is one component of the plan. Other components that have been put into place include the of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts; the University Center for Entrepreneurship, which provides resources for budding entrepreneurs; new liberal arts faculty positions for developing and teaching entrepreneurship courses; guest entrepreneur speakers; and competitions to inspire entrepreneurial thought and action across campus.

Wake Forest has a commitment to entrepreneurship on the graduate level as well. In March 2005, Entrepreneur magazine ranked the entrepreneurship program at the university's Babcock Graduate School of Management as one of the top programs in the nation.