Innovation and entrepreneurship

Have you ever watched an episode of Shark Tank and thought about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur? Jennifer Robinson has. Friends’ Director of Academic Technology and Libraries has spearheaded a new project-based course, Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation, that provides juniors and seniors with opportunities to help local business startups scale up and grow. “I want the students to see how entrepreneurs are pairing innovation and business solutions with socially responsible practices,” says Robinson. “Many for-profit businesses are shifting their culture to address not only the bottom line, but needs in their community.”

Working in teams, students conduct research, collect and analyze data, and devise solutions to present to the companies’ CEOs. For its initial project, the class is working with University of Baltimore student James Gerst on his business, Hooyo’s Tea. Active engagement and teamwork are essential as students formulate questions, test hypotheses, and work to meet ongoing deadlines. The class is scheduled to present their solutions to Gerst on October 15, according to Robinson.

Inspired by concepts developed by Doris Korda, CEO of Wildfire Education and developer of a self-titled entrepreneurship and problem-based teaching method, the interdisciplinary course works students’ organizational and time management muscles as well as public speaking, leadership development, and other soft skills necessary for success.

In the final portion of the course, students will use everything they have learned about entrepreneurship and teamwork to identify an issue they want to address in the community and plan the launch of their own startup. “Students are incredibly engaged in this course. They come to class fired up about the work and don’t hesitate to share their thoughts and ideas. I leave each class period with an adrenaline high, and I can’t wait to see where their energy takes us next.”
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