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Carolina students from the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship and Kenan-Flagler Business School carve inventive learning paths that combine anything-but-ordinary experiences.

Entrepreneurship students sit in a classroom with their laptops.

Search by the letter “E” in the UNC-Chapel Hill course catalogue, and you’ll find many of the departments you’d expect: English, Economics and Education, to name a few. What you won’t find is a departmental listing for “Entrepreneurship.” That might be surprising considering U.S. News and World Report consistently ranks UNC-Chapel Hill as having one of the top undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in the country.

But dig a little deeper into Carolina’s course offerings, and you’ll understand that this isn’t an oversight or omission. It’s a strategic effort by the University to improve student learning by infusing entrepreneurship within numerous departments across campus – computer science, public health, music, education, biology, chemistry, applied physical sciences, and media and journalism, for example – rather than focusing on one siloed major.

“Learning to become an innovator or entrepreneur isn’t a single linear path or a one-size-fits-all journey,” said Judith Cone, vice chancellor for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development at UNC-Chapel Hill.  “We believe in providing a variety of courses and co-curricular experiences in different departments that allow students from all backgrounds, interests and majors to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset that they can use wherever their professional journeys take them.”

Ask the thousands of Carolina students who studied entrepreneurship as undergraduates to describe their education paths, and you’ll hear few duplicate responses. Entrepreneurship students in Chapel Hill chart their learning experiences and select courses based on their individual interests, passions and professional goals. And while students often participate in courses from a variety of departments, two programs offer the greatest number of entrepreneurship courses and learning opportunities: The Entrepreneurship Center at the Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship within the College of Arts & Sciences.

Each program is robust on its own, but together, the programs blend to enrich students’ experiences with entrepreneurship in a way that is unique to UNC-Chapel Hill.

Bernard Bell says: "We teach students to have an entrepreneurial mindset so that they can spot opportunity." (photo by Johnny Andrews) Bell is pictured standing on campus with a photo frame superimposed around his body.
Bernard Bell says: “We teach students to have an entrepreneurial mindset so that they can spot opportunity.” (photo by Johnny Andrews)

“We teach students to have an entrepreneurial mindset so that they can spot opportunity,” said Bernard Bell, executive director of the Shuford Program, which is the only undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the country housed within a College of Arts & Sciences. The program’s home encourages diversity of thought and perspectives because it allows students from a variety of majors to earn a minor in entrepreneurship.

“We believe that if you take an art history major, a philosophy major, an economics major and a computer science major and team them up to attack a problem, the outcome will be more robust and user friendly than having all computer science majors or economics,” Bell says. The exciting thing for Carolina students, he says, is the degree of flexibility they have to shape their individual learning paths. “Many of our students not only learn from the courses, internships and programs we offer within the Shuford Program, but also from classes and programs they get involved with in the business school and elsewhere on campus. We see the cross pollination as a tremendous plus – and the students do, too.”

“An increasing number of students are taking advantage of the diversity of learning experiences offered across programs,” says Vickie Gibbs, executive director of the business school’s Entrepreneurship Center. And, as Gibbs describes, the connected approach is by design.

This year the Shuford Program hosted a talk that featured the founders of The Skimm. Photo shows panelists on stage sitting in chairs and talking.
This year the Shuford Program hosted a talk that featured the founders of The Skimm.

“The Entrepreneurship Center and Shuford Program are working together more closely than ever to introduce our students to opportunities across both programs,” says Gibbs. “We encourage students to swim in multiple lanes and to take advantage of opportunities wherever they originate,” For instance, Gibbs points out that many Shuford and business students not only take similar courses, but also get involved in many of the same hands-on, co-curricular activities like the Adams Apprenticeship leadership program and the campus-wide Carolina Challenge Pitch Party and Makeathon competitions.

The chance to learn without boundaries across the two programs attracts aspiring entrepreneurs of all types – whether they’ve always wanted to start a company or are just beginning to tinker with the idea of entrepreneurship.

By Innovate Carolina

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