News

First Year Seminar students create Web site promoting university innovation and entrepreneurship

April 22, 2010

A student-built Web site supports the concepts in a new book, "Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century," co-authored by UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp and University Entrepreneur-in-Residence Buck Goldstein to be published in fall 2010. A student-built Web site supports the concepts in a new book, "Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century," co-authored by UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp and University Entrepreneur-in-Residence Buck Goldstein to be published in fall 2010.

Chapel Hill, N.C. — Eighteen UNC freshmen became hands-on promoters of innovation and entrepreneurship when they created a new Web site for their First Year Seminar class, "Engines of Innovation," (ECON 089H), taught by UNC entrepreneur-in-residence Buck Goldstein.

"Entrepreneurship is a contact sport," Goldstein said. "The only way our students can learn this way of thinking is to actually do it. The Web site is a perfect opportunity for that to happen."

The class and the Web site support the precepts put forth in "Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century," a book co-authored by Goldstein and UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp to be published in fall 2010. The book maintains that research universities must use their vast stores of intellectual and financial resources to play a pivotal role in solving the world's biggest problems by promoting entrepreneurship and innovation.

"The point of the Web site is to promote the ideas of the book and make them dynamic, to really get them out there and be a resource for people," said Leah Downey, a freshman majoring in mathematics.

The students unveiled the site, www.revupinnovation.com for Goldstein, Thorp, Judith Cone, who is special assistant to the chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship, and other guests at the culminating class on April 22.

"The Web site is awesome," Thorp said. "It is totally consistent with what we've been saying here at UNC, that traditional education is important but a modern university has to have this sort of experience to go with it to be successful. The old model was to learn your major, then train in it but there is not time for that now. We must have the learning and the experiences happening together. This Web site project was an experience designed to get the most out of the class."

Thorp, Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Bob Langer, Harvard business school professor Michael Porter and UNC scientist entrepreneur Joe DeSimone currently contribute to the site.

Four student teams created different pieces of the site, including identifying, contacting and videotaping interview subjects for video content; researching best practices in innovation to find tangible print media content; lining up contributors to create a blog for the site; and designing and creating the site.

UNC alumnus Joel Sutherland, co-founder of New Media Campaigns in Carrboro, donated the server space and content management software needed to maintain the site.

"I went through the entrepreneurship minor in 2007 and also won the Carolina Challenge, which led to launching this company," Sutherland said. "The Carolina Entrepreneurship Initiative and the entrepreneurship programs at UNC helped us along the way and planted the seeds for us to really go for it, and I want to help pass that along to other students." CEI is the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation-funded cross-campus entrepreneurship initiative at UNC that funded the First Year Seminars in Entrepreneurship, minor in entrepreneurship and many other programs.

After working with Goldstein to develop the idea for the class, Sutherland talked his sister, Molly Sutherland, into taking the seminar for entering freshman.

"What these kids have done is amazing," Goldstein said. "The Web site gets better every day and is becoming a national site for university innovators and entrepreneurs to visit. It's very exciting."

Twelve students will continue to develop and maintain the site over the summer in physical space donated by the Campus Y.

"We spent spring semester designing the site and getting it established," Downey said. "During the summer, students will be increasing the amount of content and the number of links and also promoting and updating the site."

Downey said she has decided to minor in entrepreneurship as a result of the class. "I did not consider myself a business type of person. But I learned that entrepreneurship is also a useful mindset for putting ideas into action."

For more information, visit the web site atwww.revupinnovation.com.