Innovation and entrepreneurship are growing at Rose-Hulman. In October, RISE, the student entrepreneurship organization, had about 200 students get up early on a Saturday to spend most of the day at StartUp! Rose-Hulman. This month, 70 students volunteered for an extracurricular case study class with Felda Hardymon (RH ’69) who has a dual career as global venture capitalist and entrepreneurship professor at Harvard Business School. For these students, learning how to use their knowledge of technology to have real impact is fun.
Peter Drucker has defined innovation as exploiting change. My favorite definition of entrepreneurship is combining or recombining resources in innovative and valuable ways. The concepts of innovation and entrepreneurship are closely related, and the increasingly entrepreneurial mindset demonstrated by Rose-Hulman students lately shows that many of them understand the inevitability of change and the opportunities for them in innovation.
Interest in doing exciting things is certainly not new at Rose-Hulman. For over a decade, hundreds of students have worked each year on projects at Rose-Hulman Ventures, other projects aimed at producing tangible value for external clients have been part of the academic requirements of a number of departments for an even longer period and the Branam Innovation Center is full of students doing amazing things for the joy of creating. Building concrete canoes, solar and other nationally competitive race cars, and other technical projects are among the co-curricular activities that many alumni look back on fondly as part of their Rose-Hulman experience. However, the interest in entrepreneurship goes beyond the excitement of figuring out how to respond to produce cool technology. Students are learning how to create the sustainable value that will meet important needs and provide jobs and prosperity for them and their world.
Rose-Hulman graduates have always been great problem solvers. The entrepreneurial mindset adds skills in defining the most important problems and executing solutions that produce continuing value. This will be crucial for them in their careers. Alumni recognize this need for them and have responded generously by offering, like Felda Hardymon and the panelists at StartUp! Rose-Hulman, to share their experiences. They bring not only role models for students to emulate, but practical advice on what it takes to transform ideas into successes. For example, Jeff Ready waving his phone and describing its business importance is far more effective in persuading students to get close to customers and their needs than anything any book or class can do. Hopefully, more alumni will inform us of their successes and lessons learned so we can compile and communicate them to students.