University of Rochester

President’s Message

Entrepreneurship: A New Emphasis

The Kauffman Foundation’s selection of the University as one of only eight institutions to make entrepreneurship an ‘integral part of the college experience’ builds on a longstanding tradition at Rochester. By Thomas H. Jackson
University President Thomas H. Jackson

Great entrepreneurs are laced deeply into the history of our University. So for us it seemed a perfect fit when the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City announced a competition to help promote a sense of entrepreneurship on campuses across the country.

The Kauffman Foundation, established in the mid-1960s by the eponymous entrepreneur who built Marion Industries into a global, diversified pharmaceutical firm, works to inspire “entrepreneurial success at all levels.” In the Kauffman Campuses Initiative, the foundation invited 30 institutions to compete with the goal to “transform campus life so that entrepreneurship is an integral and natural part of the college experience.” The foundation described this as a “challenge [to] universities to institutionalize entrepreneurship on campus.”

The deans of our remarkable schools—the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, Eastman School of Music, School of Nursing, Simon School of Business Administration, Warner School of Education and Human Development, the School of Medicine and Dentistry—all immediately saw how this program could enhance what already comes naturally to us.

After all, the University more than stands its ground in terms of entrepreneurial activities. As just one example, a recent report based on 2002 figures ranked Rochester sixth in the nation in patent income among all colleges and universities despite being one of the smallest research universities in the country.

In addition to our research, the Rochester classroom environment is just right for this focus. An essential ingredient of entrepreneurship is the ability to make critical choices, and that’s also one of the foundations of Rochester’s undergraduate curriculum, which encourages our students to dig deeply into their own academic interests.

Taking seriously the Kauffman Foundation’s challenge to “transform” campus life, we responded by defining entrepreneurship in a way that would extend far beyond direct relevance to our scientists and engineers, and to our business school. Thus, through the creativity of our own entrepreneurial deans, we proposed that entrepreneurship at Rochester should be understood as the transformation of ideas into enterprises that generate value—recognizing that the value could be economic, social, intellectual, or cultural. We thereby proposed an entrepreneurship initiative that would be of relevance to all of our schools—to the faculty and students in music, health care, education, humanities, and social sciences. And we worked to find the ways in which our faculty’s and students’ entrepreneurial activities (so defined) could have greater impact on the Rochester region.

All of this is consistent with our past. Rochester’s history includes the likes of such figures as George Eastman and legendary Xerox leader Joe Wilson ’31, both extraordinary entrepreneurs. It also extends—in a very different, but no less important, sense—to such entrepreneurs as political scientist William Riker, who invented a brand new way of regarding the discipline, or Loretta Ford ’00 (HNR), who at the Medical Center transformed the tenets of nursing education and practice, or Howard Hanson, whose vision for music in America set the Eastman School on its own unique course.

The happy news last December was that Rochester was one of eight institutions—and the only one in the Northeast—to receive funding under the Kauffman Campuses Initiative. The $3.5 million grant, together with our commitment to provide a 2-for-1 match, makes this a $10 million initiative to build both more broadly and deeply on our already extraordinary entrepreneurial culture.

What will we do? Through our schools, a variety of initiatives:

A new University Center for Entrepreneurship will identify new partnerships with alumni, local businesses, and nonprofit organizations; encourage faculty to design coursework and programs; and advance research into “best practices” in entrepreneurship education.

A tuition-free “Kauffman Take Five Entrepreneurial Year” will be created for selected undergraduates, modeled on the College’s well-regarded “Take Five Scholars” program that provides a tuition-free fifth year of undergraduate study. The College also will work to develop an interdepartmental major in entrepreneurship and design a new “cluster” in its landmark curriculum.

The Eastman School of Music’s groundbreaking Institute for Music Leadership, designed to enable students, alumni, and professional musicians to become versatile music leaders shaping the musical and cultural future, will now include a new focus on “music entrepreneurship.”

The School of Nursing will establish the first-ever endowed faculty chair in nursing entrepreneurship.

The Simon School (also currently participating in two other Kauffman programs) will add new courses in Entrepreneurial Finance, Entrepreneurial Marketing and Operations, and Private Equity Lab; a fourth course, Survey of Entrepreneurs, will be reformulated from existing courses.

An Alumni Entrepreneur Network will be created to provide mentoring for students and networking opportunities for young alumni.

And that’s only a partial list of what we foresee on campus.

This University-wide proposal grew out of the extraordinary support and vision of each of our six schools and their leaders. It is a signature opportunity for us, as a University, to build on an already impressive commitment to entrepreneurship.

This year also happens to be the 150th anniversary of the birth of George Eastman—Rochester’s quintessential entrepreneur, whose legacy very much includes the University as we know it today. Now, with the endorsement of the Kauffman Foundation, we take the entrepreneurial spirit that much further.