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Entrepreneurship certificate program announced

Claire Lee                                          September 18, 2016.

The Keller Center and the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council announced a new Certificate Program in Entrepreneurship. The Program will continue to accept applications from juniors until Sept. 23, and the process for sophomores will begin in the spring.

Associate Dean of the College Rebekah Massengill said that the Certificate Program in Entrepreneurship was one of three programs approved last year, along with the Certificate Program in Archaeology and the Certificate Program in Music Theater.

Director of the University’s Keller Center and chair of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Advisory Committee Mung Chiang noted that the idea to create the Entrepreneurship certificate dates back to about three years ago when University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 and Provost David Lee GS ’99 took office.

“They convened a committee of faculty, students, staff, and alumni to explore entrepreneurship the Princeton way,” he said. “The committee started working on this in 2014 and the report was issued in spring 2015, last year, with a response by President Eisgruber and Provost Lee also in spring 2015.”

Chiang added that the report of the entrepreneurship council was part of a larger strategic planning process, a series of task forces that were examining University-wide teaching and research. He said that part of the proposed actions in that report was to situate entrepreneurship education in the broader picture of the liberal arts environment at the University and to develop the proposal for the certificate program.

In the charge issued to the PEAC, Lee said that the number of entrepreneurship-related activities, curricular or otherwise, being offered on the Princeton campus has grown considerably in recent years.

“These activities range from undergraduate and graduate course offerings such as ‘Entrepreneurial Leadership,’ ‘Social Entrepreneurship: Ventures to Address Global Challenges,’ and ‘High-Tech Entrepreneurship’; to internships coordinated through the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education, the Pace Center, the International Internship Program, and Career Services; to a Summer Accelerator Program; to broad student-led programing coordinated through groups such as the Entrepreneurship Club and the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative,” he said.

Massengill said that the University’s primary consideration for new certificate programs is that the program meets needs that are not currently being met in the existing curriculum. She added that any proposed certificate has to be distinct from a collection of courses in a department or an existing certificate program.

She noted that given the significant student interest in the entrepreneurship courses that have been offered in the past few years, the Program seeks to provide more structure and guidance for students who seek that kind of mentoring in entrepreneurship.

The official undergraduate announcement of the program notes that there are three main aims of the new certificate program: “to create focused pathways through the curriculum that will allow Princeton undergraduates to supplement work in their major departments with a systematic and coherent understanding of, and practice in, entrepreneurship; to leverage, expand, and enhance the University’s offerings across the liberal arts in order to fulfill the previously stated aim; and to promote an interdisciplinary academic community of undergraduate students, faculty members, and others who share an interest and commitment to learning from and contributing to these areas.”

Chiang said that the University defines entrepreneurship as a mindset, not vocational training.

“It is a mindset that any time you initiate transformation through risk-taking actions and create organizations, then you are an entrepreneur,” he explained. “Viewed in light of that entrepreneurship — the Princeton way of defining it — there is a substantial surge in student interest, and this is indeed a response by the University to the mounting national and local to Princetonian interest.”

Chiang added that through the certificate program, the University hopes to expose students to the mindset of entrepreneurs and plant this as a seed that may bloom within their time at Princeton, right around graduation, or much, much later in their lives.

“Across the board, we always come back to this: how can we support these broadly defined entrepreneurs with this mindset and how can we provide yet another pathway for them to contribute to the common good in society?” Chiang said.

Massengill noted that in the liberal arts model, entrepreneurship is not disciplined in the traditional way that we think the University is organized. She said that the Program makes for an ideal certificate program because it engages interest and questions across a number of different departments.

“I think it’s going to be really exciting to see entrepreneurship be a way that students in our liberal arts curriculum can think about how they can be involved in solving some of the significant challenges that we face as a society and how the kinds of hands-on processes of entrepreneurship might help them learn how to do that even more effectively,” Massengill said.

The certificate program will have limited enrollment during the first year of the operation, but the enrollment cap may be removed afterwards, Chiang said. The application deadline for seniors has passed and admitted students have already been notified.

“If you want to be an entrepreneur or learn more about it in a systematic way, now you can do it within the best liberal arts education in the world,” Chiang said.

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