Examining entrepreneurship opportunities

How can Temple improve its entrepreneurship programs?

Jason Pepper

A common debate about the function of higher education is if it should be about general knowledge and learning, or career preparation. Typically, universities tend to trend toward career preparation.

In a move against this, Temple has begun introducing a number of opportunities for students interested in becoming entrepreneurs, through both academic and extracurricular programs. With such a large student body, it’s important that the university continue to provide opportunities for all students to gain necessary career skills as well as a solid educations.

The two newest programs on Main Campus are Blackstone Launchpad and The Hatchery at Tyler.

In an increasingly difficult job market, ways to make yourself stand out and start on a good career path are becoming scarce, and Temple is taking a proactive step by preparing students to enter the business world. In some cases, particularly for artists, simply getting an education isn’t enough to secure a job, and programs like The Hatchery are important for both giving students an opportunity for reaching out to potential audiences and creating a more solid portfolio.

The Hatchery, which is a self-styled “design incubator,” is a semester-long independent study course that focuses on teaching entrepreneurship, industrial design and manufacturing. While it seems like a good idea on paper, it’s fairly limited in its outreach. The program is for only three students per semester, and those students are hand-picked by Tyler’s Graphic and Interactive Design department.

In a school like Tyler, which has more than 1,000 students, these admission rates will mean that very few of the students in the school will get into the program, so its overall impact will probably be fairly minimal.

It’s important to provide chances to students in a difficult job market, particularly in such a fiercely competitive one. However, access is the most necessary part in terms of providing the skills and education that the program aspires to. When a program is created that allows only a select few in, based on subjective assessment, then it changes from being an opportunity for anyone to being an opportunity for those who have proven that they already can sell themselves and their work by getting into the program. The Hatchery is a good program, but only for the few who are able to partake in it.

Fortunately, the art school does provide a number of opportunities for art students to create and earn money from their projects that are more openly available, including “The Great Glass Pumpkin Patch,” an event that allows glass students to show off their skills and sell their art. More importantly, it’s an opportunity for the students to showcase their work in a professional setting. Other programs, like the printmaking sale, allow students in other areas of the school to have similar opportunities.

Art majors aren’t the only  students who have chances to learn more about entrepreneurship. The Blackstone Launchpad is available to all students at Temple and Philadelphia University. The program is designed to help students launch independent projects by giving them access to resources, consulting and coaching.

Unlike The Hatchery, the Launchpad is open to all students of both universities, and gaining access is as simple as filling out a personal profile and venture assessment form, then signing up for individual consultation. It’s still a fairly lengthy process, but the fact that it’s open to all students is a good step in creating chances for students to stand out.

However, this also has a problem of access, but in terms of publicity rather than how many students can participate. Located in the basement of the Student Center, the brand new program is designed for students, but very few seem to be familiar with it. The success of programs like this depends largely on their publicity. With luck, the program will continue to develop and provide students with even greater opportunities.

Temple should continue to foster programs like this. Even with its limited scope, The Hatchery is taking steps forward to create ways that students can start their careers before leaving school. Other programs that the university provides, like the Launchpad, show better signs of understanding the importance of access, but a good balance needs to be struck. It’s little to no use if only a select few in a university of thousands get an opportunity, but it’s also important to not let these programs be flooded with unrefined or impossible ideas. Part of the university’s job needs to be educating students about these programs, and then making them available.

Jason Pepper can be reached at  pepper.jason.a@temple.edu and on twitter @pepperjasona

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