Really? Universities creating ‘Shark Tank’ entrepreneur degrees

In a new trend taking over universities, innovation courses and degrees are being created to capitalize on America’s obsession with “Shark Tank” entrepreneurship

Credit: ABC Television Network

If you’re not watching ABC’s critically acclaimed entrepreneur-themed show Shark Tank, you’re missing least, according to universities.

Now in it’s fifth season with more than 8 million viewers, entrepreneurs pitch in front of six “shark” multimillionaire and billionaire entrepreneurs and investors, to help save or grow their business.

The show is syndicated on CNBC and transcends demographics: Teens, parents and grandparents tune in each week to see which new innovation will pique the curiosity (or sometimes ridicule) of a shark.

Persuasive pitches with clear business plans can receive a handsome investment and influential business partner to help take their idea to the next level.

Why is Shark Tank so popular?

According to Executive Producer Mark Burnett, “It’s what America stands for. Everybody’s got a dream.”

OK, so what does this have to do with colleges and universities?

(Next page: Why universities are pushing “shark tank” degrees)

Universities across the nation may be trying to capitalize on the show’s great success. Seeking to create alternative career choices for graduates, schools are experimenting with courses and degrees in innovation to promote entrepreneurship, The Daily Pennsylvanian reports.

Even large cities, like Chicago, are holding college entrepreneurship competitions to lure tech-innovative students to their communities. The purpose, says Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is to support young entrepreneurs right out of college and boost the local economy. (Read “City aims to take your college’s most tech innovative.”)

While pending accreditation, proponents of these programs claim they help reaffirm that ingenuity and innovation is alive and well in the United States.

Here’s a rundown of universities offering “shark tank” courses and degrees:

University of Pennsylvania

The Fisher Program in Management and Technology is an innovative, dual degree program in which students pursue degrees from both The Wharton School and Penn Engineering concurrently.

The M&T curriculum is a highly individualized program tailored to fit each student’s interests. Special “linking” courses such as Management 237: Management of Technology and Management 235: Technological Innovation and Entrepreneurship are offered to integrate and bridge the two disciplines.

Drexel University

The Creativity & Innovation Program has become a part of Drexel’s School of Education (SOE). The Certificate in Creativity and Innovation is designed to teach students fundamental problem solving skills necessary for becoming an innovative leader.

The certificate aims to enhance knowledge of the major creativity theories, to strengthen creativity, to advanced communication and collaborative skills in the workplace, and to present methods for assessing creative strengths.

Stanford University

Stanford’s StartX is a non-profit organization whose goal is to advance entrepreneurial development through experiential education. Student receive many benefits such as collaboration with like-minded entrepreneurs, mentorship from Silicon Valley specialists, and customized education and resources including office space.

Students also benefit by not paying fees or giving up company equity.

Harvard University

Launched in November 2011, the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab) serves as a resource for students passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation. The i-lab program helps students expand their projects at any stage of development and covers a wide range of disciplines.

The i-lab fosters collaboration among Harvard students, faculty, entrepreneurs, and greater Boston community members. Community members are invited to attend events hosted at the i-lab, to stop at the InnoBreak Café (offering coffee and snacks), and take advantage of the community lobby open workspace and WiFi.

Will other universities launch new entrepreneurship courses and degrees in innovation to capitalize on Shark Tank’s popularity and success? Share your comments in the section below and join the conversation on Twitter @Michael_eSM.

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