Think of an “entrepreneur” and you may find yourself conjuring a business savant who invests, risks, and reaps rewards. While this description may account for some core entrepreneurial functions, the commercial motivation is only one part of the equation.
Depending on the individual, more compelling motivations might be love of the arts, fascination with technology, or passion to save the environment from the effects of climate change. In fact, most PSU disciplines are ripe for entrepreneurship. This is the powerful insight underlying the broad potential of Plymouth State’s new Transformative Innovation & Design Entrepreneurship (TIDE) program.
“Entrepreneurship education is now expanding into arts, sciences, design, and most any subject,” notes Professor Howard Frederick, teaching faculty in entrepreneurship. “It’s becoming university-wide, drawing on cross-disciplinary programs with diverse missions. Anyone with vision can launch a venture.”
TIDE students take calculated risks, learn from failures, identify opportunities, solve problems, and act with creative confidence to design solutions with broad impact on social, educational, economic, and environmental problems. TIDE is part of PSU’s own transformation to a more entrepreneurial institution, the vision championed by President Donald Birx since 2016. This approach is based on applied experiential learning, which prepares students to address real-world issues.
Innovation and entrepreneurship are key to Plymouth State’s Integrated Clusters learning model. The University’s reorganization of 24 departments and three colleges into seven interdisciplinary Clusters in 2016 placed the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Cluster in the special position, due to its size and influence, of assisting the other clusters. No matter their course of study, students gain an understanding of how to develop and implement innovative and entrepreneurial ideas.
“PSU hasn’t any competitors per se when you look at how the Cluster concept is implemented,” says Frederick. “When you consider a proposed new major like music entrepreneurship, you really couldn’t do that in many other places. It’s a unique, distinctive advantage that PSU has and others recognize within the University System of New Hampshire and more broadly.”
PSU offers TIDE in three formats:
- An option in the management bachelor’s program
- A certificate open to all disciplines, with a practical focus intended to enhance students’ professional credentials
- An interdisciplinary studies stream with student-selected courses that bridges historically separate disciplines (for example, meteorological innovations)
Five courses serve as program pillars: Foundations of Entrepreneurship, Design Thinking & Venture Start-up, Social Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurial Growth & Strategy, and a capstone course, Lean Incubation and Business Launch.
“The TIDE program instills an entrepreneurial will and enterprising mind-set into students of all majors,” says Frederick. “It teaches the needed design skills and entrepreneurial tools to create and grow ventures of any kind.”
TIDE is a major addition to PSU’s own University-based Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, which also includes entrepreneurship courses for non-business majors, alignment of institutional objectives and ongoing curriculum innovation, PSU’s makerspaces, the Enactus entrepreneurship student club, and networking events where entrepreneurs interact and participate with regional and business communities.
In addition, PSU’s Shark Tank clone, the Panther Pitch, emphasizes the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship through a “Big Ideas” competition open to all majors. Participants formally pitch their ideas for business or social ventures that address real-world problems. Projects have focused on addiction, art, food production, and software apps, among a wide range of other topics that attest to PSU’s broad and diverse pool of budding campus entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurship helps break down silos because every discipline has their enterprising personalities,” says Frederick. “It isn’t just about business and the commercialization of innovations—entrepreneurs throughout the campus can launch social and environmental ventures. In fact, the social side is biggest right now in our university.”
Professor Frederick, a specialist in global entrepreneurship education and author of a leading textbook in the field, points out the many opportunities for entrepreneurial skills in large companies, nonprofits, government, and faith-based organizations. He credits Professor Bonnie Bechard, who teaches PSU’s social entrepreneurship course, for championing this aspect of entrepreneurship.
Julie Miller ’22 is an interdisciplinary studies major planning on getting her degree in fashion and visual design. She recently founded the PSU Fashion Club after studying abroad in Florence. “I think the TIDE program will be very beneficial to me and other entrepreneurship students because coronavirus has been hitting small businesses especially hard and this will help us all navigate the new world around us,” she says. “People have been stressing to shop local and I quite agree, as this is what our economy is based on. I believe that many students want to venture out on their own and this gives them an opportunity to do so.”
Frederick’s goal is to certify the TIDE program with Quality Matters, the online education accreditation body, and to offer the TIDE certificate New England-wide.