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UNC to offer introductory course on entrepreneurship open to all undergraduates

The University’s focus on innovation and entrepreneurship is about to get a bigger audience.

In the fall, UNC will offer Introduction to Entrepreneurship, a new lecture course organizers hope will join traditional heavyweights such as Economics and Psychology 101, survey classes that boast enrollment in the hundreds year after year.

The new class reflects an effort by administrators to expose a larger number of students to the principles of innovation and entrepreneurship. That effort began with Innovate@Carolina, a $125 million project announced in 2010 that has spawned smaller projects such as Carolina Creates and a TEDx event scheduled for Jan. 21.

The course’s high priority is reflected by its three professors: Chancellor Holden Thorp, Buck Goldstein, the University’s entrepreneur in residence, and former economics department Chairman John Akin.

The creation of the class was in part a reaction to high demand for spots in UNC’s minor in entrepreneurship, which accepts 100 students, mostly juniors, each year. It has been in existence for six years.

Goldstein, who serves on The Daily Tar Heel’s board of directors, said there were almost 300 applicants for 100 spots in the minor last year, and that administrators might consider expanding it in the future.

The entrepreneurship minor has thus far represented the theme’s primary presence in the classroom. But the fall class is the next step in the realization of Innovate@Carolina, seeking to prepare graduates for an international economy that requires the United States to invest in innovation and entrepreneurship.

“If you think about where our current economy is going to be 50 or 100 years from now, if we’re going to be an economic power in the world, we’re going to have to be very good about innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Lowry Caudill, chairman of UNC’s Innovation Circle and a member of the Board of Trustees.

“If we do those things, we can compete with the rest of the world. You know, we can’t win on numbers.”

Exposure through the introductory class will help prepare students for the current environment regardless of their career choice, Caudill said.

The class is listed as ECON 125 and scheduled to meet at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Carroll 111, which holds 400 people.

“If it gets bigger after the first year then we’ll find a bigger classroom,” Goldstein said.

Organizers said they foresee a class unlike any other in higher education. “We think that it will be groundbreaking,” Akin said.

Goldstein, who co-wrote “Engines of Innovation” with Thorp, said the course will feature a variety of instructional methods, including guest lectures by high-profile entrepreneurs from outside academia.

“In the book we sort of talk the talk and now in the course I think we’re going to try to walk the walk,” Goldstein said.

With a non-traditional format and seven months of planning to go, Goldstein said the course will represent an innovation in itself.

“Think about it. How could we do this course about innovation and entrepreneurship and not have the course be innovative?”

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