Energy around entrepreneurship is picking up speed at University of Chicago, and not just at the Booth School of Business: The computer science department is hiring a professor to teach entrepreneurship, the law school offers entrepreneurship training, and a new center for microbiome research has an incubator for commercializing its research and innovations.

(Credit: University of Chicago)

Now a UChicago Booth professor is stepping in to track all the activity and develop educational resources that can help students launch ventures no matter their school.

As of July 1, Waverly Deutsch, a clinical professor of entrepreneurship at Booth, will serve as the Polsky Center’s Academic Director of University-Wide Entrepreneurship Content.

Her first step is discovery, talking to departments across the university about their entrepreneurship offerings and venture-creation “wish lists.” Beyond that, she’ll be looking for ways to fill in the entrepreneurship education gaps through workshops, classes and online content. The goal is to create an “innovation path” where students and faculty can easily find entrepreneurship resources geared toward their background and stage of development.

“The high-level strategy for the Polsky Center is to be the venture creation engine for the university,” Deutsch told Chicago Inno. “Curriculum comes in support of that, programming comes in support of that, funding comes in support of that. And in order to do that effectively, we have to have the right content.”

This content could come in many forms, Deutsch said, including for-credit courses, extracurricular classes, workshop series, student-run events, conferences, and online materials. A lot of this content is likely to come from Booth, she noted. Already this has started to happen: There are courses on commercializing innovation and entrepreneurship in science currently being developed for non-Booth students.

“Both [classes] are meant to be taking some of the content [from Booth] for an audience where you can’t assume as much business background and deliver it to other university constituents,” she said.

This comes after a year of extensive investment in entrepreneurship at the school. Last summer Invenergy founder Michael Polsky donated $35 million (following a previous $15 million donation) to establish an expanded Polsky Center, which now includes the 53rd St Innovation Exchange and tech transfer office. In December, the university established the UChicago Startup Investment Program, a $25 million fund that will invest in early stage startups related to the university. This summer Booth alum Tandean Rustandy gave $20 million to the business school, with the aim of boosting social impact innovation.

Deutsch emphasized that the energy around entrepreneurship has been organic, and UChicago is just developing the resources that students desire.

“there is more of a recognition that the old paths of employment aren’t reliable”

“Particularly at the undergraduate level there is more of a recognition that the old paths of employment aren’t reliable and taking control of your own ability to drive your career is part of your responsibility as a student and as a person,” she noted.

But at the same time, she said that UChicago seems to be emphasizing entrepreneurship as a means of funding big breakthroughs and staying relevant as education shifts.

“One of the things all universities are thinking about is the changing role of higher education in a world of infinitely available information through the web,” she said. “In a challenging employment environment where a college degree doesn’t offer you a well paying job any more, what is the advantage of a campus-based university? The incubation of innovation is something that it seems to me that [President Zimmer] is placing a bet on.”

Image credit: University of Chicago