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Wayne State Adds Certificate In Engineering Entrepreneurship

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Beginning this fall, Wayne State University undergraduate engineering students have the opportunity to study ventures engineering thanks to the approval by the WSU Board of Governors of a certificate in engineering entrepreneurship.

The new program takes advantage of three course offerings in the WSU School of Business Administration as well as one new engineering course and an entrepreneurial capstone project to help prepare students to start their own businesses or work for startup companies, said Nancy Philippart, executive-in-residence of the College of Engineering’s Engineering Ventures Program.

Engineering students working toward a bachelor’s degree in any one of the college’s seven disciplines — biomedical, chemical, electrical and computer, industrial systems, civil and environmental, mechanical, and engineering technology — can earn a certificate in engineering entrepreneurship by taking the five classes (15 credits) required by the new program, some of which may already be taken as part of the student’s major requirements.

With an economy in transition, graduates can no longer expect to be hired into a company or even an industry for the entirety of their career. Training in both engineering and the entrepreneurial business skills developed through the certificate program will give students firmer control over their own destinies. Not so possible 15 years ago, today’s newly degreed engineering undergraduates prepared in engineering and business can be confident in embarking on entrepreneurial endeavors where their passions lie.

Philippart said the new program is designed to help students understand the fundamentals of starting a company, including different corporate structures, legal filings, intellectual property protection and liability protection. They will learn marketing fundamentals and the basic set of financial tools to run a company. In the entrepreneurial management course, students will write their own business plan. The capstone course will require students to implement those plans.

Philippart, who is the former executive director of GM Accessories, a startup operation within General Motors, and who is currently working on a new business venture with a WSU researcher, was busy marketing the new program within the College of Engineering in the weeks leading up to the program’s launch. She was holding focus group discussions with administrators and staff, including academic advisors, who she described as the “touch points” with students. Focus groups with students are also planned during the fall semester.

The introduction of entrepreneurialism into the engineering curriculum requires an understanding and a new mindset, Philippart explained.
“The big challenge is to position it to students to demonstrate its real value,” she said. “Do they really see entrepreneurship as a career path? Students should not be discouraged from pursuing their passion by either their educating institution or family and friends.”

Philippart expects the majority of students initially entering the program to come from the freshman or sophomore engineering class since depending on the major, the program will require students to take between 9 and 12 additional credits. At the same time,

“While the program is aimed at undergraduates, there’s no reason why an engineering graduate student can’t do this as well,” she said.

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