Promoting Student I&E
Though Forbes ranked Skidmore 7th place on its list “America’s Most Entrepreneurial Colleges,” student innovation & entrepreneurship (I&E) is still in an early stage. Through research, we’ve gathered insight on how to enhance and develop the integrative learning experience as well as expose students to an interdisciplinary environment. From our research, discussions with other fellows and observations of later staged eco-systems, we’ve focused a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and integrative learning for the highly effective results in academic institutions. Skidmore College currently offers Management and Business courses that engage students in I&E. Skidmore also provides an array of advanced courses such as MB 350 (Entrepreneurship and small Business) and MB 351(What’s the Big Idea?) which provide specific training on how to design, implement, and promote businesses. There are additional opportunities such as the Skidmore-Saratoga Consulting Partnership, which allow students the opportunity to apply entrepreneurial skills to local businesses. These classes and opportunities provide rudimental steps in design thinking, but when comparing our institution to others, there is a clear difference in development. We have conceptualized a few methods to advance I&E that cater to Skidmore’s specific criteria. The fist improvements could be realized by increasing exposure to design thinking and lean start-up business approaches. One method of adopting these approaches could be achieved by providing more opportunities to earn specialized certifications in entrepreneurship. An example of the positive effects of these opportunities and the effectiveness of extracurricular events can be witnessed at the Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition, The New York State Business Plan Competition and Start-up Weekend: Saratoga. As a single entity, Skidmore has gleaned recognition at these events for the high level of entrepreneurial aptitude of the students. That said, the culture of I&E is relatively low. We believe this is due to the limited facilities that enable students from multiple concentrates the ability to explore I&E. With the autonomy to explore curiosity, a culture around I&E will develop. We are confident that this will self-promote because when combining faculty expertise with student inquisition, academia is effectual.
Encouraging Faculty Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Although there are innovators among the faculty, and Skidmore has a department of sponsored research for faculty, there is a disconnect between the institution, the students, and the greater community. We truly have brilliant professors, but most of their work goes unheard of. There is no integrative way a business major can gain insight from the science departments unless taking a class. By shifting this trend and publically exposing the incredible research, the connections between students and faculty would strengthen. Exposure to new research and new ideas would allow new channels of curiosity to flow and the culture to develop. We do have a number of professor’s who are bucking the trend. Professor Catherine Hill has been a major proponent of I&E and has greatly contributed to developing the facilities in parallel with the culture. Her most recent contribution is a website (https://skidmoreentrepreneurs.wordpress.com) to promote entrepreneurship and expose the accolades and achievements of the students. A secondary purpose of the websites is to attract non-business majors. From our findings, attracting non-business majors will greatly assist in holistically developing the culture of I&E. In addition, non-business majors play an important role in achieving interdisciplinary collaboration.
Actively Supporting The University Technology Transfer Process
At Skidmore we have three main incubator spaces: the Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition (KFBPC), which hosts business plan writing workshops and arranges mentors for competition finalists; Accelerate518, which is a regionally focused support service from promising startups; and also Startup Weekend: Saratoga, which is open to anyone in Saratoga and allows groups to focus on different business ideas over the course of a weekend with a panel of judges who regularly check in and provide guidance as needed. In terms of seed funding initiatives: the KFBPC provides cash and in-kind services last valued at $60,000.00 - first place winner can win up to $20,000.00; while the Eastman Grant offers a $5,000.00 grant to a single venture every year. When it comes to student IP generation, students seek services outside the college. In terms of tech transfer specifics, Skidmore has a department of sponsored research, though that is predominantly available for faculty research rather than student ideation. Facilitating University-
As Skidmore is a small early-staged ecosystem, we don’t have a graduate program with highly technical facilities. This is a larger driver of I&E in academic institutions, which is why it’s important we establish strong partnership programs with larger institutions in the region. The lack of communal facilities and training is crucial in the development of interdisciplinary collaboration and the ability to develop and capitalizing good ideas. We have focused our solutions on developing facilities because as mention before, the culture will grow around the collaboration, and collaboration needs autonomy. The Albany Suny Polytech nanoscale science institute is within range for direct partnership between the arts and sciences. We also partner with Dartmouth for their engineering program.
Engaging with regional and local economic development efforts.
Despite Skidmore’s size, we are very integrated with the local community. Countless classes partner with local organizations to teach, learn, and collaborate. Some of the most prominent departments involved in these practices include education, business, economics, computer science, and environmental studies. One of the best classes the business department offers is called Skidmore Saratoga Consulting Partnership (SSCP). This class gives local organizations free consulting with Skidmore business students. Not only does the advice help the organizations, but the students learn real world skills in the process. While this collaboration is great, we want to build upon ideas like this, and focus on bringing the community and Skidmore together. Another great partnership is within the education program. While this is less innovation-based, we run a preschool on campus that uses volunteers from Skidmore student body to run. Again, the community and Skidmore classes are brought together and both benefit. Our fellow students are extremely talented; each and every one brings something innovative and unique to the table. We want part of our plans to include harnessing that energy and using it as a force for good in the neighbouring community.
Written by: [[Henry Cyprien Fabre|Henry Cyprien Fabre]], [[Weston Stewart-Tennes|Weston stewart-tennes]], [[Alexander Nassief|Alexander Nassief]]