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Business Basics For Engineers And Scientists: A Case Study On A New Graduate Course

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Improving Student Entrepreneurial Skills

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.253.1 - 15.253.9

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Paper Authors


McRae Banks Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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McRae C. Banks is professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy, and founder and former director of the Collaborative for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at WPI. Additionally he is immediate past chair of the ASEE Entrepreneurship Division and a founding advisor of the Kern Family Foundation's KEEN Program. He is the founder of five startups in the academic and private sectors and has been immersed in engineering and science entrepreneurship for over 15 years, and entrepreneurship generally for over 25 years.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract



One of the common complaints of those teaching entrepreneurship courses is that non-business students simply do not have the background in accounting, finance, leadership, organizational behavior, and marketing to benefit from the courses at an appropriate level of depth. As a result, those professors have to teach those topics at some level of detail, which cuts into their instructional time on the key elements of the course. On the opposite side, many engineering and science professors complain that they would like their MS and PhD students to learn more about business, but there is not enough room in the program to take a plethora of business courses. In both cases, the faculty members want students to have a single course they can take that will provide the basics of business. Yet, as we found, such a course is rare. What no one has disputed is the richness of knowledge, approaches, and ideas when engineering, science, and business students are combined in the classroom. With that in mind, we created a new course, Business Basics for Engineers and Scientists, that serves to provide those basic skills engineering and science professors want for their graduate students, and prepares those who wish to take further business or entrepreneurship courses to undertake work at a higher level.

Business Basics for Engineers and Scientists is a new graduate course developed to address the problem of differing knowledge levels and the problem of multiple background courses. It is not an entrepreneurship course, so entrepreneurship texts were avoided, but it is a course that engineering and science graduate students can learn from to help prepare them for entrepreneurship courses or for more general business understanding. Through a combination of practical books, articles, notes, cases, and guest speakers, the course introduces students to important theory and practice in three primary areas: organization and leadership, marketing, and accounting and finance. The paper not only describes the construction of the syllabus, but the lessons learned from delivering the initial offering of the course and expectations for changing it going forward.


A strategic initiative of the entrepreneurship program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is the education of students and business practitioners in technology commercialization. For us, that may be licensing technology to existing organizations, whether large or small, or to start- ups, whether internal or external to WPI. As one way to deliver on this, we created a four course graduate certificate program in Innovation Commercialization and Entrepreneurship, referred to as ICE. The component courses are Business Basics for Engineers and Scientists; Technology Commercialization Theory, Practice, and Strategy; Technology Commercialization Project; and an entrepreneurship elective, most likely Entrepreneurial Selling. This paper walks the reader through the development and delivery of the first course, Business Basics for Engineers and Scientists.

Banks, M. (2010, June), Business Basics For Engineers And Scientists: A Case Study On A New Graduate Course Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky.

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