Should Entrepreneurship Be Taught as a Standalone Subject?

Here’s Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard on teaching business ethics:

WSJ: Weak ethical guidance has been mentioned as a factor in the financial crisis. How do you try to instill in your students a sense of right and wrong?

Mr. Hubbard: When I became dean there were a lot of schools doing this through standalone ethics classes. My view is students marginalize classes like that.

I don’t think students pay attention to it the way they do when it’s integrated into your marketing course, into your operations course, into your finance class.

We have cases that are woven through and outside speakers who come in to work with the students. What’s really important for young business-school students is to see this as a real problem, looking at a real business person confronted with this issue and how he or she dealt with it.

Kauffman Foundation President Carl Schramm often makes the same argument for entrepreneurship: rather than setting up specialized courses and degree programs in entrepreneurship, colleges and universities should infuse entrepreneurship throughout the entire curriculum. (“Mommy, why do we have an English Major and a Chemistry Major but no Entrepreneurship Major?” “Every major is Entrepreneurship Major!”)

I think there is a place for specialized entrepreneurship courses, programs, majors, etc. but Schramm has a point. The University of Missouri, like many other schools, designates certain courses as “writing intensive,” and requires so many writing-intensive credits for graduation. A proposal to add a “diversity-intensive” course requirement was recently voted down, but will surely reappear soon in a different form. What about making students take a certain number of “entrepreneurship-intensive” courses? Or urge faculty across disciplines to incorporate entrepreneurial concepts, where appropriate, into their syllabi? What do you think is most effective?

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One Response to Should Entrepreneurship Be Taught as a Standalone Subject?

  1. SkepticProf says:

    Because it’s just SO easy to get specialized faculty members in other disciplines to learn entrepreneurship — and the skills are SO comparable.

    HBS tried this with IT — dissolved the department and distributed the curriculum. Operations-management faculty and marketing faculty got this unfunded mandate squarely on their shoulders. Some succeeded brilliantly; others didn’t. This is a recipe for disaster (unless team-taught, of course).

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