By Liz Warren-Pederson
Students who complete the year-long McGuire Entrepreneurship Program walk away with a business plan, but their academic experience goes far beyond that document.
“It’s really clear that the students develop broad knowledge and understanding of the venture process well beyond the business plan,” said Sherry Hoskinson, director of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship. “We try to measure that understanding through academic reviews, which we’ve done for the past several years.”
The purpose of the academic review is to assess individual performance of students using the same lens – something the year-end competition, which focuses more on the ventures themselves, was not designed to achieve.
Over two days, a panel of three academic reviewers from peer institutions heard each team present their venture. The teams then defended their ventures in a 15-minute Q&A session.
“It was certainly nerve-racking, considering it was one of the major presentations we had worked towards all year,” said Brittany Hultstrom (BSBA Marketing and Entrepreneurship ’11), who was part of the three-person SAB Manufacturing team. “We put many hours in to prepare for it, which helped to bring down the stress level.”
Like the year-end competition, the academic review focused on the extent to which the venture was investment-ready. But unlike the competition, which occurs over a single, rapid-fire day, the academic review panel had the time to drill down with each team.
“For example, we were asked about the acquisition costs per customer, which was one of the more challenging questions for us to answer during that presentation,” Hultstrom said. “It was a question that really showed us the importance of knowing S.A.B. Manufacturing inside and out.”
The academic review’s second goal is to assess program performance: to see how well the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program’s learning benchmarks are conveyed in the classroom. In past years, the review panel made notes following each team’s presentation, but this year Hoskinson said that the reviewers keyed in their responses in real-time using clickers. All that data, she said, “gives us a mechanism to assess our program strengths and weaknesses, showing us where we need to augment our teaching.”
The good news, Hoskinson said, is that she can see that the process of turning any idea into reality is getting through to the overwhelming majority of McGuire Entrepreneurship Program students.
“The McGuire Center allows students to learn from trial and error, but also provides the guidance necessary to reach success,” Hultstrom said. “Before the program, I had no idea where I was supposed to start to launch a business. Now I feel confident that I can conduct the needed research, complete the financial projections, write a full business plan, and know how to pitch to investors.”