Which Universities Have No Chance at Entrepreneurship?

I chose to go the George Mason’s School of Public Policy to pursue my PhD for three main reasons 1) it offered a flexible part-time program with many interesting fields of study 2) it was a newer, aggressive school that had attracted many top faculty in recent years (Richard Florida, Francis Fukuyama, Zoltan Acs) and 3) and it was in DC, my wife’s hometown, and a vibrant region of power, technology, and culture that allowed the school and its students and instructors to engage in the policy debates of the day.

In entering a school of public policy I was quickly introduced to the field of economic development and the terms Taylorism and Fordism — terms were meant to convey the scientific management of the industrial process and increased efficiency and economic output. (FORD being an early example with its assembly lines) Many also use the terms to describe a system that capitalizes on mass labor in a negative way.

The Collegiate Way blog has an interesting posting about an article in the Atlantic Monthly by a Professor X titled The Basement of the Ivory Tower. Apparently the article basically explains that many colleges just take in students and keep them in, in order to achieve revenues.

From the article by Professor X:

I work at colleges of last resort. For many of my students, college was not a goal they spent years preparing for, but a place they landed in. Those I teach don’t come up in the debates about adolescent overachievers and cutthroat college admissions. Mine are the students whose applications show indifferent grades and have blank spaces where the extracurricular activities would go. They chose their college based not on the U.S. News & World Report rankings but on MapQuest; in their ideal academic geometry, college is located at a convenient spot between work and home. I can relate, for it was exactly this line of thinking that dictated where I sent my teaching résumé.

Some of their high-school transcripts are newly minted, others decades old. Many of my students have returned to college after some manner of life interregnum: a year or two of post-high-school dissolution, or a large swath of simple middle-class existence, 20 years of the demands of home and family. They work during the day and come to class in the evenings. I teach young men who must amass a certain number of credits before they can become police officers or state troopers, lower-echelon health-care workers who need credits to qualify for raises, and municipal employees who require college-level certification to advance at work.

The article is worth reading and confirms some of our suspicions that certain types of campuses will have a difficult time taking advantage of the campus entrepreneurship phenomenon.

For example, one of our ideas as we build out this theory of Campus Entrepreneurship, that we are testing is that campus entrepreneurs take advantage of the great diversity on campus in order to recognize opportunities and develop firms. This may be very true at Harvard or UC Berkeley (with global students, staff, and institutional connections) but not as true at the College of Lake County (IL).

So if you are a campus entrepreneur or someone thinking about leveraging a campus for a new venture, do your due diligence and make sure the campus you are looking at has many strong assets — including a healthy, inquisitive student body.

One thought on “Which Universities Have No Chance at Entrepreneurship?

  1. Pingback: More Calls for Creative Destruction in Higher Ed « Campus Entrepreneurship

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