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It’s time for Rochester to return to its roots

 

Rochester is a city rich with entrepreneurial stories–from George Eastman’s Kodak to Tom Golisano’s Paychex and to even more recent successes like David Koretz’s BlueTie. The city’s innovative businesses, led by these and many other local champions, have made Rochester a center of commerce, research and education as well as a great place to live and work.

It is time that Rochester’s leading college gets serious about entrepreneurship education so that the city can return to its roots, bolster its economy and secure a brighter future.

As a proud undergraduate student at the University of Rochester, I am grateful that my studies here have introduced me to new ways of thinking from some of the nation’s top professors and the diverse viewpoints of my fellow students. However, as a local small-business owner, I am less enthusiastic about the School of Arts and Sciences’ lack of commitment to teaching tomorrow’s leaders about the exciting possibilities and proven benefits of entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship education is effective. While it is true that not every student will end up launching a business, it is also true that every student can benefit from learning the disciplined process of transforming an idea or passion into an enterprise or organization that creates value.

In 2003, when the university received a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (which promotes entrepreneurship in America), UR began exploring entrepreneurship education and launched new courses, programs and centers. Great success has been seen in entrepreneurship programs implemented at the School of Nursing and the Eastman School of Music. However, advances in entrepreneurship at Arts and Sciences have been lacking. Today, the once-promising idea of a major or minor in entrepreneurship at the school has vanished, and the commitment from school leadership to make Rochester a beacon of entrepreneurial thought has dwindled.

Meanwhile, the few entrepreneurship seminars and courses currently offered are being filled beyond capacity; the demand for such knowledge is growing, and it is time that university leaders answer the call to continue developing a practical curriculum and skill set that will create value for its students, for society and for the community.

City leaders and politicians in Albany often lament the area’s "brain drain" as many students educated in Rochester leave the region upon graduation and travel out of state to pursue other opportunities. By enhancing entrepreneurial offerings at the UR’s Arts and Sciences school, especially with the wealth of talent and resources available at the Simon Graduate School of Business, we can build local leaders who have the skills necessary to take advantage of the city’s many business opportunities and enhance our economy.

If the University of Rochester chooses to act boldly, we can re-energize the spirit of opportunity and innovation in our city. With a stronger commitment to entrepreneurship, we can create more jobs, enhance our quality of life and return Rochester to its vibrant roots.

Eric Meyer, 20, of Geneseo is a small-business owner and young entrepreneur attending the University of Rochester as a Rochester Early Business Scholar with a scholarship from the McKelvey Foundation for Entrepreneurial Spirit. He operates a video production business in addition to a company that launches and manages youth educational programs across the Northeast.

10/8/10 (c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

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