Entrepreneurship Programming at University of Colorado Boulder

Prospective students are seeking more than just education these days.

They are seeking out experience and opportunity and, if your institution can’t offer that, you could be missing out recruiting engaged and innovative students.

Programs that offer real-world experiences, such as entrepreneurial business ventures, are drawing students who recognize the value of such programs to their post-study endeavours.

Our guest this week on the Enrollment Growth University was Kyle Judah, Director of Entrepreneurship at University of Colorado Boulder (College of Engineering & Applied Science).

An entrepreneur himself, Kyle cut his teeth on higher ed entrepreneurial programming and accelerated programming at MIT before recently joining the team at CU Boulder–a start-up forward and innovative institution in and of itself.

Here are the highlights of our interview with Kyle, who discussed with us the recruitment, corporate, and fundraising benefits of launching entrepreneurship and accelerator programming at your institution.

The Recruitment Draw of Entrepreneurship and Accelerator Programs in Higher Education

Colorado has one of the highest rates of startups per capita in the United States, so it makes sense that one of its most innovative and vibrant universities is leading the way with its entrepreneurial and accelerated programs.

Programs such as Catalyze CU, their eight-week summer accelerator program, offer a safe place for students (or faculty or researchers) to focus on founding a new venture by providing equity-free funding, grants to cover living expenses, and personalized mentoring.

These types of programs are offering students more than just the traditional classroom experience, which they are using when ultimately deciding which institution can provide them with greater life value.

Students see these programs as valuable opportunities to either get an early start to entrepreneurial success–or–as opportunities to fail forward, all the while gaining skills and experience that will land them better paying jobs after graduation.

That is what makes these programs a great recruitment tool.

The Corporate/Community Value of Entrepreneurship Programming on Campus

Just as students are increasingly savvy to what opportunities are available to them outside the classroom, donors are also becoming more interested in seeing just what value their dollars are creating on campus.

Entrepreneurial and accelerated programs go a long way with donors as there is a tangible outcome–whether that’s companies started, jobs created, or revenue generated. It’s a whole new way to showcase the donor impact.

There’s also increased local business and community engagement, showcasing how valuable these programs are to both student and potential future employer–another tangible and valuable connection for donors to make.

There is value to not only the donor contributions, but to the corporate world who stay engaged along the way. Employers aren’t just another booth at a career fair–they are building meaningful relationships with these entrepreneurial students and faculty, while fostering that cross-pollination between campus and community.

Are Accelerator Programs a Good Fit for Your Campus?

As great as these programs have been for institutions like CU Boulder and MIT, Kyle warns that it’s not as easy as just copying what other places have done and assuming they will work on your campus.

First of all, there needs to be demand on campus already for one of these programs, otherwise you risk losing out on getting support and funding from your administrators.

If this is something you think your current and potential students will benefit from, Kyle encourages you to do some research first. Be entrepreneurial yourself and conduct student interviews to see what the actual demand is on your campus.

Be responsive to what the actual needs are on your campus, rather than trying to advocate for what you think is right.

Yes, these programs are a fantastic recruitment draw and, when done well, can set your institution apart from others who offer similar academic programs, but it’s important to ensure you have the support from your administrators and faculty before getting in too deep.

Take the time to uncover what is authentic to your campus, what you can uniquely offer that builds your students and your community, and go from there!