The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Close expands degree options

The Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship recently announced that students will now have the option of earning a Bachelor of Arts in Entrepreneurship and Innovation beginning in the 2014-15 academic year.

Aside from business schools, the Close School will be the first and only freestanding school in the nation to offer its own degree in entrepreneurship. The school will also offer three minors: social entrepreneurship, health innovations and energy innovations.

Photo Credit: Craig Sherod

Photo Credit: Craig Sherod

The new academic programs within the Close School are entirely separate from the entrepreneurship coursework currently offered by the LeBow College of Business. For the upcoming year, the Close School’s programs will coexist with those of LeBow. Any students currently pursuing a degree in entrepreneurship, including those in the incoming class of freshmen, will retain the option of completing their degree within LeBow. However, beginning with the incoming class of 2015, any student who would like to pursue a degree in entrepreneurship will have to do so through the Close School; the major will no longer be offered through LeBow.

“The current students that are in that major can certainly stay at LeBow,” Close School Dean Donna DeCarolis explained. “If they like, they could transfer and get a B.A. in entrepreneurship here, so it’s nothing but good news for them.”

The degree requirements go beyond a business-centered coursework and are intended to foster the growth of both the entrepreneur as a person as well as teach students about the more technical entrepreneurial processes that go into starting a business.

“Entrepreneurship is not something that is all about business, nor is it all about businesspeople. We can find entrepreneurs all over campus that are writers, that are nurses, that are engineers, that are artists,” DeCarolis said.

Claudia McManus is a sophomore business administration major and student employee of the Close School. McManus recently completed her first co-op in the education sector and said she hopes to use what she learns to help improve our school system through minors in education and entrepreneurship.

“I’m hoping to put the two together to attempt to remedy some of the school district problems from an entrepreneurial mindset,” McManus said, providing one example of the interdisciplinary goals DeCarolis had in mind when designing the curriculum.

It is for this reason that the required coursework is interdisciplinary and incorporates classes from a variety of other colleges within the University. In addition to the 38 new entrepreneurship classes that were launched to act as the backbone of the entrepreneurship and innovation degree, students have a list of electives to choose from, comprised of entrepreneurship-related courses from across the University.

“We looked all around campus and found courses that spoke to innovation and entrepreneurship that we tried to plug in,” DeCarolis explained. Such classes include those in the entertainment and arts management, sociology, and engineering fields, to name a few.

The new entrepreneurship classes are not only offered to students enrolled in the degree program, however. Students from any major are welcomed and encouraged to enroll.

“We created these courses with the idea that we wanted students from all over campus to be able to come to the Close School and take a class,” DeCarolis said. “We designed this school to be that way because we want students to have as many paths to entrepreneurship as possible.”

A popular example of one such course is titled “Launch It,” where teams of students, who must apply to be accepted into the course, are granted $2,000 to, as the title suggests, launch their business and de-risk their idea. A second version of the class, “Launch It: Early Stage,” does not require students to have a business already in the works.

As intended, the class is made up of students from various majors, which adds a unique dynamic to the course.

“There’s engineers, someone’s in interior design, someone’s an English major,” McManus said, currently enrolled in the latter version of the class. “It’s sort of like having a panel of your peers ready to discuss your business with you.”

Students who would like to learn about entrepreneurship but wish to pursue a different degree may also now declare an entrepreneurship minor within the Close School. The three available minors, which also serve as concentrations within the entrepreneurship and innovations degree, were designed to give students proficiency in entrepreneurship as it relates to specific industries.

“I looked at what Drexel is about, I looked at the University’s strategic plan, and we have a couple of core-competency research areas, and they are in health, and they are in energy,” DeCarolis explained. “Health and energy are two huge industries, so it was sort of a perfect fit.”

In addition to the degrees and coursework, the Close School also offers several other entrepreneurial-centered opportunities to students, one of which is the Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community, a group of freshmen across various majors who live together in Myers Hall.

The ELLC ran for the first time in the 2013-14 academic year, and the experience culminated in a fully funded trip to Silicon Valley during which students visited headquarters of Fortune 500 companies such as Apple and eBay.

“We learned more from those five days than from any textbook,” Allison Murphy, a freshman entrepreneurship and marketing major and president of the ELLC, wrote in an email. “That was an invaluable addition to my freshman year and future Drexel experiences.”

Close also provides students the opportunity to complete a co-op by working for their own company and awards $15,000 to students who qualify to self-employ.

“I can’t think of a better way for a student who qualifies to get that entrepreneurial experience,” DeCarolis said. “I can’t think of a better way for Drexel University to say, ‘We believe in you.’”

Collin Cavote, a senior custom-designed major, participated in the entrepreneurship co-op program, using the opportunity to build his company Biome to help fight climate change.

“The co-op was an opportunity to take my vision and transform it into something more tangible. Co-working space in the Baiada Institute and $15,000 of support from the Close School created a powerful catalyst for Biome,” Cavote wrote in an email.

The academic programs and extracurricular opportunities offered to students create a complete package that is perfectly aligned with the mindset of the college and its dean to make entrepreneurship education accessible to all students in a way that will prepare them for the 21st-century workplace.

The Close School of Entrepreneurship was established in 2013 after a $12.5 million gift from the Charles and Barbara Close Foundation. The school was named after Charles D. Close, a Drexel alumnus and successful entrepreneur.