From Art to Engineering and from Music to Medicine, Rowan University faculty and students are adopting an entrepreneurial mindset to achieve goals both inside the classroom and long after students complete their degree.
Following a tone set by President Ali Houshmand, faculty and students say that mindset enables them to be more present and active in chasing and achieving goals, whatever they may be.
Dr. Eric Liguori, Rohrer Chair of Entrepreneurship and director of the Rowan Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE) in the Rohrer College of Business, said by developing an entrepreneurial mindset, students embrace a creative, goal-driven approach to success, however they define it.
“We’ve done a lot to spread the concept of entrepreneurship and we’re seeing formal and informal pockets take hold across the campus,” he said. “A great example is our new Business of Art class, run by Nancy Sophy, a painter, and myself.”
Encouraging a business mindset
While the traditional image of an entrepreneur might be a businessman or woman, an enterprising engineer, even a teenage go-getter with a great idea, Liguori said modern entrepreneurship is not necessarily about creating the next big thing, though of course it could be, but thinking like a problem-solving businessperson.
RCB’s popular entrepreneurship program has more than 100 students enrolled as majors and more than 40 as minors. This past summer, the college hosted its 4th annual “Think Like an Entrepreneur Summer High School Program” and, despite the need to hold it virtually, the program drew more than 100 students from seven states and more than 40 high schools.
The RCIE offers a Faculty Certificate Program in Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the popular Rohrer New Venture Competition draws as many as 80 teams each year, awarding thousands of dollars in prize money to groups of students with promising ideas.
“We partnered this year with the Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine on ProjectNest, a pitch competition bridging business, engineering, computer science and medicine,” Liguori said. “You may not think of doctors as entrepreneurs but they need to think like them. Their salary can be somewhat dependent on how they build a patient base and having an entrepreneurial mindset is clearly a benefit. Some of the best medical devices emerge from doctors in the field applying entrepreneurial principles to find new and better solutions for patient care. That’s entrepreneurial mindset in action.”
Sophy said the Business of Art class that she and Liguori started for Fall 2020 speaks directly to a need.
“The fact is, many artists do different things to make a living, but their studio practice is their business, too,” Sophy said. “They need to know how to work as an entrepreneur even if they have a nine-to-five job, and many do.”
Studio art major Jess Hedum, a senior, took lessons from the Business of Art class to heart. She held her first professional gallery show in October – an astounding achievement for an artist who’s still in college – and approached it with a decidedly entrepreneurial attitude.
“I sold four paintings and five pairs of earrings,” said Hedum, a Cape May native whose landscape works often depict the beauty of the shore, like foam on a breaking wave, that tourists might take for granted.
Her show, at McCall Studio Gallery in Manassas, Virginia, featured work that she created at Westby Hall studios on Rowan’s Glassboro campus.
But having strangers view, appraise, and sometimes even buy her work did not come easy.
“You’re in this mindset where you’re putting your art out for the world to accept or not,” Hedum said. “An entrepreneurial mindset gave me the ability to accept rejection but also a stronger appreciation for how I value my time, style and effort.”
Associate Professor Tom Fusco said his stagecraft students often find rewarding careers building sets for theater, television and film productions, but those careers are usually in the “gig economy,” job-to-job and built over decades.
To encourage students to not only think, but act, entrepreneurially, Fusco started a production company called Stage Rats LLC that builds sets for small theaters and schools.
“About ten years ago I started getting a lot of calls to build scenery and I had a bunch of students who I thought could do this work,” Fusco said. “I’d teach them about tax forms and payroll and how to run a small business, because in this industry those are skills you need. So we formed the company, and the students came up with the name.”
Fusco, who teaches a course titled Entrepreneurship for the Artist, said that too helps students build skills and an entrepreneurial mindset while still in school.
Part of his curriculum includes several books, some of which, like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, might be more expected of a business major.
“It’s a classic but it’s right on,” Fusco said. “If you’re more entrepreneurial in your mind, you’re more goal-oriented. It’s like another tool in the toolbox.”
Entrepreneurs in Engineering, Science & Math
Without question, Rowan’s entrepreneurial spirit is woven throughout the University, not just in programs and majors but through internships and hands-on research.
In the College of Science & Mathematics’ Computer Science Department, lecturer Jake Levy fields requests from companies for student programmers capable of building software.
Levy finds the best solutions for companies with the budget to pay undergraduates and a faculty member to oversee them to give students experience, professional exposure and paid opportunities that ideally lead to jobs.
“They have the abilities and skills to build full, real-world projects—and they get a lot of practical experiences in our department,” Levy said. “Those experiences translate into real skills.”
In the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, grant-funded work is underway to make engineering synonymous with entrepreneurship – and it’s getting results. The Department of Biomedical Engineering, for example, boasts five start-up companies, four led by faculty and one by students. And all engineering departments team undergraduates with businesses, industry, clinicians or entrepreneurs on extended projects to solve major problems, with many projects focusing on and strengthening the entrepreneurial mindset of students.
New courses and programs, like Translational Biomedical Entrepreneurship with the Rohrer College of Business, pair business school students and biomedical engineers to develop ideas and ventures with potential commercial value.
“Biomedical engineers devise medical innovations that can improve patients’ function and even save lives,” said Dr. Mark Byrne, professor of Biomedical Engineering and the department’s founding head. “By pairing engineers with business students, we’re creating viable teams and support to commercialize ideas.”