University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign students are behind some of the world’s most famous tech and startups, including PayPal, Netscape, and YouTube.
A new major launching out of UIUC aims to help the next generation of engineers become similarly successful entrepreneurs.
UIUC’s College of Engineering is set to introduce a dual degree program in Innovation, Leadership, and Engineering Entrepreneurship, to infuse a traditional engineering, computer science, or physics degree with the skills needed to launch an idea into a startup. The degree program was approved by UIUC’s Board of Trustees this week, and heads to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. If approved, the program will roll out next September.
Andy Singer, an engineering professor and director at UIUC’s Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC) will head up the new program. He said it will include a number of new courses derived from programming and classes previously run through the TEC Center. A big focus is experiential learning: Students can link up with the faculty entrepreneur fellows program to help commercialize technology, or get course credit for working on their own venture with a faculty mentor.
UIUC’s engineering program is ranked fourth worldwide. Entrepreneurship on the flagship public university’s campus has recently grown: Already over 1,000 students take TEC classes per year, and UIUC officials said participation has doubled in the past five years. But Singer said the degree solidifies the link between creating tech and business.
“We lead the [pack in] entrepreneurship and by creating this degree we are recognizing that innovation leadership and engineering entrepreneurship are not just satellite, extracurricular activities but we bring them front and center,” he said to Chicago Inno. “Students can come to Illinois, engage their passions, and receive mentorship, education and guidance as they take part in our highly entrepreneurial ecosystem on campus.”
“Today’s students are already heavily investing their time and energy in entrepreneurship and innovation as they study engineering,” said Andreas Cangellaris, dean of engineering at UIUC added in a statement. “It is our job to amplify that and make sure our students can use that energy to have world-changing impact.”