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Interdisciplinary STEM-Business Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship Program

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Entrepreneurship Courses and Outcomes I

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.944.1 - 22.944.11



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Paper Authors


Ken Vickers University of Arkansas

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Ken Vickers is a Research Professor in Physics at the University of Arkansas, and has served as Director of the interdisciplinary Microelectronics-Photonics Graduate Program since its creation in April 1998. He worked for Texas Instruments from 1977 through March 1998 in integrated circuit fabrication engineering, the last seven years as Engineering Manager of the TI Sherman IC Wafer Fab. Professor Vickers’ technical accomplishments before leaving TI included chairmanship of the Sherman Site Technical Council for six years, election to Senior Member Technical Staff, chairmanship of two corporate level worldwide teams, and authorship of thirty-two issued patents. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Physics from the University of Arkansas in 1976 and 1978 respectively.

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Carol Reeves University of Arkansas

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Carol Reeves is the Associate Vice-Provost for Entrepreneurship and holds the Cecil and Gwendolyn Cupp Applied Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. Her research focuses on the effects of family violence on the workplace, and the mitigating effects of financial self-sufficiency. She and her co-author have received grants totaling $750,000 from the Department of Justice to study this.

Carol coordinates the entrepreneurship efforts at the University and has mentored more than 30 undergraduate and graduate business plan teams since 2002. In 2010, Carol’s teams won more national business plan competitions than teams from any one university in the 25 year history of the competitions. Carol has won two national awards for innovation in entrepreneurship pedagogy and won the prestigious University of Arkansas Alumni Association Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching in 2009. She earned a Ph.D. in Strategic Management with an Entrepreneurship Concentration from the University of Georgia in 1988.

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Interdisciplinary STEM- Business Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship ProgramIn 1998, an interdisciplinary science-engineering graduate program in micro to nanoscalematerials, processes, and devices was created to allow students interested in its field of study totake courses across multiple departments that would benefit their career preparation.Operationally, the graduate program was defined to emulate an industrial work groupatmosphere, both in its daily operations and in its management education. The M.S. technicalcontent curriculum was reduced by one course, and seven hours of required management-relatedcourses were added. The Ph.D. technical content curriculum was unchanged, but three hours ofa management-related course beyond the M.S. curriculum was added. In addition, all studentswere required to take a three-hour course specifically in research commercialization that wasdeveloped with financial support of the NCIIA. While this curriculum provided valuabletraining in these areas to its students, it did not result in an academic credential that demonstratedits value to the hiring market.In the spring of 2004 the College of Business and the College of Engineering began developing a12 credit-hour Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship for non-business majors. Although theprogram was initially conceived of as an area of emphasis for Engineering Ph.D. students,faculty and students from throughout the university recognized its potential, and the Certificatewas opened to any non-business graduate student.Approved in 2007, the Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship includes an introductory class(Foundations of Business for Entrepreneurs) that introduces non-business students to basicbusiness concepts as they apply to entrepreneurs. Following successful completion of this class,students take a two-course sequence (New Venture Development and Business Plan Project)with graduate business students. These classes address opportunity recognition and new venturedevelopment and funding.A key component of the Graduate Certificate is the interdisciplinary teams formed for the NewVenture Development class. These teams work together to develop a business plan for a start-upthat typically commercializes a university technology. The engineering/science/agriculturestudents provide the technical expertise needed to assess available technologies and developthem for the marketplace, while the business students develop marketing plans, competitiveanalyses, and financial viability assessments. The teams refine their plans over several monthsand then submit them to national and international business plan contests; almost all of the teamsadvance to the oral presentation rounds at these competitions. Over the past four years, theseteams have had significant success, winning over $1 million in cash, investments, and in-kindprizes, raising several million dollars in funding, and starting two of the companies proposed inthe plans developed for the class.In this paper, the authors will discuss how the interdisciplinary teams are formed and managed,the factors leading to the teams’ successes in the business plan competitions, and how the teamshave moved from student business plans competitors to start-up owners. The current status andfuture opportunities for the student-led companies that have launched from the GraduateCertificate in Entrepreneurship program will also be addressed.

Vickers, K., & Reeves, C. (2011, June), Interdisciplinary STEM-Business Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship Program Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18307

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