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A highly popular minor first introduced 12 years ago has been giving Engineering students the opportunity to gain insight into the business world.

The Engineering Entrepreneurship minor is a popular choice for Engineering students looking to learn more about technology ventures and business development. Currently, there are 162 students enrolled in the program.

Started 12 years ago, the minor was inspired by a similar program first formed by Stanford University. Two core interdisciplinary classes that form the foundation of the minor, Engineering Entrepreneurship 1 and 2, steadily gained popularity until the school’s administration suggested that a minor should be formed. The minor consists of the two core courses and four electives from a variety of schools including the Wharton School, the School of Law and the Graduate School of Education.

Engineering Entrepreneurship Program Associate Director Jeffrey Babin said Engineering Entrepreneurship 1 is intended to give students a comprehensive look at all aspects of entrepreneurship in high technology ventures. The course emphasizes input from guest lecturers — all Penn alumni — who have had success in the technology business or as venture capitalists.

Engineering Entrepreneurship 2, a business-planning class, requires students to apply concepts they learned during Engineering Entrepreneurship 1 into the formation of an independently developed venture concept.

“It’s designed to be an academic exercise,” said Babin, explaining that throughout the entire semester, students enrolled in the course work in teams to develop a business plan. At the end of the course, students present the final business plan to a panel of venture capitalists, angel investors and business professionals to be judged on the quality of the venture and presentation style.

“We want the judges to contribute to a realistic experience by giving feedback and asking the types of questions entrepreneurs would encounter when pitching,” Babin said.

According to Engineering Entrepreneurship Program Director Thomas Cassel, the business education provided by the minor differs from a purely Wharton education because of its approach.

“While Wharton provides business education more along the lines of hiring engineers to build a company, we’re the opposite,” he said. “Engineers have the idea, create the venture, execute the idea and hire the business people to help them run it.”

Regarding the hit-or-miss nature of many startup ventures, Babin said the minor provides some reality behind the hype in the media.

“Our responsibility is really to provide an educational framework to understand how companies do succeed because the reality is that the odds are against them,” he said.

Engineering senior Shin Jing Lim said the minor has been useful in helping her gain an understanding of how the business world works, particularly for her future career in consulting.

“I may not use the skills directly, but I become more familiar with the terms, and the process of pitching a business idea,” Lim said. “Even if you go in the engineering track, it’s good to know how a company is run.”

She added that a number of Wharton students do enroll in the two core courses, as well.

However, Lim said the choices of electives in the minor can sometimes be difficult to enroll in for some undergraduates.

“Certain courses are reserved for graduate students, [which requires] a need for a permit which might be difficult to get,” Lim said.

She added that some courses stipulate pre-requisites not commonly found on the Engineering track, which might deter some students from taking the classes.

Cassel said there are no future plans to expand the minor to become a major.

“In the high technology space, what’s going to make a good entrepreneur is a solid engineering background,” Cassel said. “The minor is intended to be a supplement to the solid education in the engineering discipline they are already getting.”

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