BY HOA NGUYEN '18
At the beginning of this semester, Mount Holyoke launched a new minor in entrepreneurship, organizations and society, or E.O.S. for short.
“The minor is the outcome of a year long discussion among faculty and staff about what we want to offer curricularly in the space of business, entrepreneurship and social innovation,” said Eva Paus, director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives and professor of economics.
While students often refer to this minor as solely entrepreneurship or economic-focused, the subject is examined via a holistic approach, encompassing the broader settings of organizations and society. “It’s not just economics,” Paus said. “It’s the interdisciplinary context that matters, knowing the cultural context, knowing social challenges and how to address them.”
These contexts, according to Paus, are critical in a multitude of areas, whether social sciences, arts, humanities or natural sciences. This notion translates into an E.O.S. committee that brings together faculty members of diverse backgrounds, ranging from environmental studies and economics to sociology and music. Within this committee, visiting lecturer in economics Rick Feldman specifically serves as the entrepreneurship coordinator.
The curriculum, which replaces the old complex organizations minor, is divided into five sub-categories, including entrepreneurship, organizations, law and power, global economy, global and cultural intersections and data and technical analysis.
“Most of the courses, with the exception of Feldman’s specialized classes in entrepreneurship, are existing courses under these five pillars,” said Paus. Regrouping classes in such a way makes the curriculum more accessible for students, therefore encouraging them to make clearer connections to their post-college trajectory, added Paus.
At the core of the curriculum is the emphasis on connecting theoretical learning with application. The applied learning component may take different forms, such as creating a startup, having embedded practitioners in the classroom or tackling authentic cases.
“If you think about where people will work after they graduate ... eventually they’re going to end up in an organization, work for themselves or work for the government,” she said. In fact, it is becoming more common for people to change their jobs multiple times, which makes it necessary to gain practical knowledge and skills to navigate across that spectrum of organizational forms.
Leah Rapperport ’18, who studies politics and art studio, is currently taking professor Feldman’s class entitled “Entrepreneurship: Social and Economic Impact in Practice.” This summer, she piloted an entrepreneurship program called “GoGirl” in Boston, to support women interested in the innovation sector through education.
According to Rapperport, much of the analysis of how people think and operate that is frequently discussed in politics can be found in the field of entrepreneurship. “In politics, we must understand the public policy makers and governmental officials to understand how we can create policies and enact laws that best fit their needs,” she said.
In Feldman’s entrepreneurship class, in addition to sessions on theories and methods, each group of two to four students is responsible for running a project to create a viable product at the end of the semester. “When doing an in-class business project, it is a safe way to explore entrepreneurship without being totally financially dependent on the success of your business,” Rapperport said. She added that professor Feldman has been very successful in evaluating the class’s needs and providing those in his lectures in subsequent lectures.
Going forward, Rapperport hopes that more professors will engage in the program and that there will be more continuity for current professors like Feldman. This way, students can developconnections with professors who then offer advice in class and with regard to future careers.
In today’s world, there is an increasing demand for entrepreneurship as well as an increase in students’ interest in the field. “We have a growing number of Leahs, a growing number of students interested in entrepreneurship,” said Paus. Responding to that need, the E.O.S. committee will be meeting again throughout the year to figure out in greater detail how it wants to expand, modify and sharpen the program.