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CSUSB starts school of entrepreneurship

California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) has launched a School of Entrepreneurship, the first of its kind on the west coast and one of only 15 worldwide.

The school, which began classes last month, is primarily for students who want to start their own business, said Mike Stull, an entrepreneurship professor at CSUSB and the new school’s director.

It is located in the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration but is a separate entity within that school. Enrollment is expected to reach 500 students in five years.

“Entrepreneurship is unique, and it’s becoming accepted as an academic discipline,” Stull said. “CNBC reports on it, and it’s being taught in high schools. More and more it’s becoming part of the culture.”

Most business schools have entrepreneurship departments, but any academic department tends to get overrun by academic bureaucracy.

“If you’re a school it’s easier to chart your own course and create your own programs,” said Stull, who predicted enrollment at the entrepreneurship school could reach 500 in five years. “We want this to become a destiny location, for students and for faculty, and we can only do that if we’re independent.”

The CSUSB School of Entrepreneurship oversees eight academic programs and has 20 full and part-time faculty, most of whom already teach at the business school. It is an offshoot of the university’s entrepreneurship program, which began with less than 20 students in 2002 and now has 265 students. 

The school, which has been in the works for about three years, had to be approved by several campus entities – including the faculty senate, provost’s office, and university President Tomas D. Morales – to become official.  It will be based on the classic definition of an entrepreneur: someone who starts and operates their own business assumes all financial risk associated with the venture.

Now is the time for Cal State San Bernardino to make its entrepreneurship program its own school, Morales said.

“The School of Entrepreneurship represents a truly wonderful and pioneering example of our mission here at Cal State San Bernardino in offering our students a challenging, yet rewarding, educational experience,” Morales said in a statement. “The school’s offerings and dynamic faculty will inspire our students to succeed and help prepare them for life after graduation where they will become our future business leaders and leading entrepreneurs.”

Because of COVID-19, all classes will be online for at least the first semester. Ultimately, university officials hope the school will help attract better faculty and students, which will make it easier to obtain research grants.

“Even with COVID-19, this is a good time to start this,” Stull said. “Entrepreneurship is kind of a thing right now.”

Stull cited Shark Tank, the ABC-TV reality program, as a sign of entrepreneurship being a trendy topic. First aired in 2009, the show depicts entrepreneurs pitching business ideas to a group of five investors – “sharks” – who then decide whether to give their financial support to any of the proposed ventures.

Shark Tank, the winner of four Primetime Emmy Awards, began its 12th season last month.

“A few years ago, if you had asked a business school class ‘how many of you want to be entrepreneurs,’ only a few hands would have gone up,” Stull said. “They might not have known what you were talking about, but that’s not true now.”

All graduates of the School of Entrepreneurship will major in Administration with a concentration on Entrepreneurship, said Lawrence Rose, dean of the Brown business school.

“There are about 20 million small businesses in the United States right now, and they’re the backbone of the economy,” Rose said. “We’re going to see more small businesses because there’s a trend toward people [in business] wanting to follow their own path. At some level, they want to control their own destiny.”

But there remains in academia some skepticism about whether entrepreneurship can be taught in a classroom, according to an article published last month in the Harvard Business Review.

The article, written by two New York University professors, noted that there are multiple examples of successful entrepreneurs who never went to business school or graduated from college, although it doesn’t mention anyone by name.

MBA programs do offer multiple entrepreneurship programs – including regular courses, startup competitions, and incubators – but entrepreneurship requires imagination, learning to deal with disruption, and knowing when to act counterintuitively, things that generally don’t fit into a business school curriculum, the article states. 

Some skepticism about entrepreneur schools is probably justified, but there’s no question that entrepreneurism has evolved into an academic discipline, according to Stull.

“Entrepreneurism [in academia] has been around for about 40 years, and it has developed standards and a body of knowledge to draw from,” Stull said. “So, yes, you can teach it. I think some people believe that when you start a business you make up everything as you go along, but that’s not true. There are things you need to know.”

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