Brad Bernthal: Entrepreneurship Is Too Important to Be a Major

The Wall Street Journal
Apr 29, 2013The Accelerators

Brad Bernthal: Entrepreneurship Is Too Important to Be a Major

Guest mentor Brad Bernthal, director of Silicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado: Entrepreneurship is an outsider way of thinking. A major would domesticate entrepreneurship. The better path for integrating entrepreneurship within universities involves a re-conception of how university institutions work.

The greatest risk of the entrepreneurial major is isolation. The last thing you want is for entrepreneurship to become a ghetto separated from other departments and disciplines. Instead, you want entrepreneurship diffused across schools and campus departments. What would be most powerful is a confederated model of decentralized but coordinated entrepreneurship offerings that are encouraged within each campus.

The more ambitious vision for universities is to embrace entrepreneurship as a cross-cutting endeavor that fits horizontally across the existing vertical and parallel stovepipes of existing majors. Moreover, entrepreneurship should regularly engage the surrounding community external to the university. Entrepreneurship education should give students the tools to navigate contexts of uncertainty and it should be the vehicle that assembles cross-functional teams within universities. Otherwise, the institution remains tied to legacy policies and procedures that frustrate horizontal, interdisciplinary configurations and useful community outreach engagements.

At CU-Boulder, we’re increasingly asking what a public entrepreneurial university should look like. In my answer, we need to create a university where students pursue a deep vertical dive in an underlying major while simultaneously working in cross-functional teams and contexts. The result should be the cultivation of students that are critical thinkers as well as “entrepreneurial literate.” We’re making progress. But there is a long way to go.

Do not de-fang entrepreneurship to fit the existing institution. Instead, use entrepreneurship as a mechanism to reform the institution.

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