This year, on the last day of October, President Barack Obama declared November National Entrepreneurship Month. As he stated in the proclamation, our country is most effective when there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs to bring their innovations to the marketplace. The White House also created a Startup America Initiative with the goal of growing the number of successful startups in the nation.
Colleges and universities are at the forefront of creating the next successful entrepreneurs. Many universities are beginning to promote an entrepreneurial culture on their campuses and provide opportunities for students from diverse departments to collaborate on new projects and businesses.
The entrepreneurial bug didn’t bite me until I arrived at UGA as a doctoral student. It wasn’t until I ventured outside of the College of Education and took entrepreneurial focused classes that I realized the benefits of learning entrepreneurship.
Developing an entrepreneurial mindset is important for all students even for those who do not intend to start businesses. Being able to recognize opportunities, embrace risk and not be afraid of failure are valuable qualities in any profession. The university ecosystem provides a great opportunity to test entrepreneurial abilities while having access to free tools and resources.
UGA has its own set of initiatives regarding entrepreneurship and innovation that I encourage all students at UGA to partake in this month and beyond. The most prominent of these initiatives is Thinc., an organization that provides the necessary resources through lectures, workshops and training that inspires students to “start something.”
Four Athens, the local technology incubator, provides many opportunities to develop the entrepreneurial mindset. Their events include hosting a happy hour with people looking to engage with the Athens startup community, social hackathons and free classes for those who want to learn to program.
The Society of Entrepreneurs is open to students from all levels who are interested in creating a business. They host speakers to talk about their journey in entrepreneurship and provide peer advisory groups for students to receive feedback and accountability.
This past May, I became part of the University Innovation Fellows program. This program is run by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), and is funded by the National Science Foundation as a partnership between Stanford University and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA). The program seeks to ensure students gain the necessary attitudes, skills and knowledge needed to compete in the 21st century economy. I joined 59 student leaders from 53 other universities to help spark greater levels of innovation and venture activity on campus.
After receiving training as part of the program and becoming inspired by the great organizations that fellows were starting at their universities, I helped create the What I.F.? Innovation Club. What I.F.? provides an avenue for students to work together on projects that interest them while learning skills such as developing empathy for a potential customer, effective methods for engaging in brainstorming and how to create a quick and cheap prototype.
These organizations are mere examples of the many opportunities available to students who wish to engage in entrepreneurship and innovation on campus. A list of clubs and organizations can be found on the Thinc. website.
November provides a great opportunity to engage in entrepreneurial activities on campus, however UGA provides ways for students to develop their entrepreneurial minds year-round.
—Gregory Wilson is a doctoral student from Lithonia