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Northwestern Nurtures Student Entrepreneurs

McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Julio M. Ottino was instrumental in creating NUvention: Medical Innovation, a two-quarter course for graduate and undergraduate students from across the University that launched in fall 2007. It's one of seven classes — two graduate and five undergraduate — offered through McCormick's Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

NUvention is an interdisciplinary program that brings together faculty from McCormick, the School of Law, the Feinberg School of Medicine and the Kellogg School of Management to develop courses where students experience the entire innovation and business life cycle from ideation to prototyping and plan development.

William White (McC61), former CEO of Bell & Howell and a professor of industrial engineering and management sciences, created the first entrepreneurship course at McCormick. He says the growth in the school's entrepreneurial offerings was made possible through collaboration among clinical faculty members with real-world experience; enthusiastic alumni who serve as speakers, business plan competition judges and angel investors; and students who voiced a demand for exposure to entrepreneurship.

"Ninety percent of the concepts and ideas that students gain in these classes are applicable not only to startups but also to all business-related fields," says White. "Even though most students in these courses will not become entrepreneurs, we take satisfaction in knowing that these classes will help students who choose careers in business."

In addition to classes, Northwestern offers numerous extracurricular activities to both graduate and undergraduate students to build and hone their entrepreneurship skills.

InNUvation, founded by McCormick and Kellogg graduate students, is an "interdisciplinary entrepreneurship and innovation forum" designed to promote entrepreneurial spirit, according to the student organization's web site. The organization's 1,000 members, organized in chapters in several Northwestern schools, participate in events such as the Venture Challenge, a business-idea competition that is open to the entire University.

"What we have at Northwestern is an atmosphere of cross-school collaboration," White says.

There are other student initiatives, such as Northwestern Student Holdings, a group under the umbrella of the Institute for Student Business Education, which focuses on startups and implementing new ideas.

So, why is Northwestern so supportive of entrepreneurship? "The average business in the United States has gotten so institutionalized, hierarchical and process oriented," explains White. "We need entrepreneurs to come around and shake us. We need to bring a shift in culture." — S.A.

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NUvention students
Students in the NUvention: Medical Innovation course explain their heart device to faculty.Photo by Mary Hanlon