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Diversity and Space to Innovate: Keys to Creating Georgia’s Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

Robin Morris, Associate Provost of Strategic Initiatives, Georgia State University

Robin Morris, Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Regents Professor of Psychology, Georgia State University

By Robin Morris, Associate Provost, Georgia State University

Georgia State’s student diversity is a major untapped resource for generating new ways of thinking and innovation, but most of our students do not know the entrepreneur’s path to success, and many come from backgrounds with the lowest rates of generating new businesses.

We have a unique opportunity to transcend these rates and unleash the entrepreneurial drives, dreams and talents of students from all backgrounds. Our quickly growing entrepreneurship strategy is developing a unique mix of curricular and extra-curricular activities designed to provide multiple paths for success for our diverse student body.

We are providing numerous opportunities to advance each student’s skills and knowledge relevant to entrepreneurial thinking, innovation and business development. We are also providing them with a rich and environment that fosters the development of relationships with like-minded students who will form their supportive entrepreneurial community.

Last year the university formally introduced its new Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute, administered by the Robinson College of Business. The Institute’s first academic program, started in fall 2016, was a Minor in Entrepreneurship which can be taken by any student from any major. In one year, we’re serving more than 400 students in these classes and the early projections are that enrollment will more than double next year.

Related to the Minor in Entrepreneurship are new content-driven Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) concentrations with embedded entrepreneurial curriculum and experiential learning components. In our new Creative Media Industries Institute we have new Media Entrepreneurship, and Game Design and Development concentrations. In the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies we have a new BIS in Social Entrepreneurship.

We are also introducing new programming outside the classroom. In our newest student housing, we started E-House, a Living-Learning Community to provide those with entrepreneurial ambitions the chance to live, learn and connect with other students who share similar interests and aspirations. Unique programming for all of our students has also been designed to provide experiential learning opportunities, like uVenture Challenge, a competition that links our entrepreneurial-oriented students with local businesses in a mutually beneficial problem-solving model.

This semester, we’re opening our new student pre-incubator/incubator (LaunchGSU) that provides ongoing non-curricular, student-centered, entrepreneurship-focused programming like Startup Exchange and Startup Semester, but also represents one of the starting points for our incubator programs for student businesses. Our strategy focuses on a wider range and more inclusive list of types of businesses and startups (franchising, family businesses, new media, the arts, non-technology- focused business development, etc.) than typically technology/biotechnology-focused programs at many other universities. Other more content-specific incubators are opening soon within the Creative Media Industries Institute and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute, all being designed with strong links to local community-based incubators and startup communities that can provide for more advanced opportunities for our student startups.

Georgia State provides an exceptional opportunity to provide special support to entrepreneurial-oriented students from diverse backgrounds who traditionally do not pursue such a path. The university can be an innovator that changes the rate of entrepreneurial activity and outcomes for our unique mix of students and advances a wider range of new business and job creation in Georgia, the region and the country.

Robin Morris is the Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives and a Regents Professor of Psychology at Georgia State University.

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