This fall, Innovate@BU helped launch the brand new Innovation & Entrepreneurship minor–a program that enables undergraduate students from every BU school and college to learn how to develop ideas, regardless of their field of expertise and create tangible economic or social impact.
After learning about the minor, senior Rebecca Ayers, an Economics major in the College of Arts & Sciences, jumped at the opportunity to add courses to her fall schedule, including SI 250: Ideas2Impact, the minor’s required class, and a few electives making it possible to complete the minor before graduating in January.
“I would recommend that students start the minor early so that they can take advantage of the electives offered in so many different schools and colleges; there’s a huge variety and exposing yourself to different topics, students, and teachers is an experience that will be really useful throughout life,” said Ayers “This semester, I’m taking a COM class where I’m writing opinion and creative pieces which I haven’t done in a long time. It’s very different than what I do in my economic classes.”
This minor is not just for those who want to launch a startup but for students who want to learn how to be more entrepreneurial in all aspects of their lives. The minor aims to teach students a set of life skills including identifying unmet needs and new opportunities, leading creativity and ideation, collaboration, prototyping, and testing which can prepare students for careers in many domains.
As an economics major in the College of Arts & Sciences, Ayers is used to large lecture-style classes focused on data, analytics, and structured problem-solving. SI 250: Ideas2Impact has been a completely new learning experience. The course exposes students to innovation frameworks and the process of transforming an idea from conception to execution in order to create economic or social impact.
Ayers noted that “it’s very different than any other class I’ve taken. It’s refreshing to have a class where we stand up, move around, and brainstorm in groups–it’s very interactive.”
“I’m used to only having classes with students within my major. In [Ideas2Impact], I’m the only person from my major and have learned that diverse teams are more likely to create a successful product or idea.”
This fall, students in the class worked on a semester-long project in partnership with the town of Easton, Massachusetts to tackle different challenges facing the elderly such as transportation, housing, communication and health services. In October, Ayers and her group, made up of students from the College of Communication, Arts & Sciences, and Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College, interviewed residents about their pain points when it comes to engaging with town programs and social activities.
“We’ve found that they’re interested in programs that the town offers, like yoga classes, but the biggest barrier is how those opportunities are communicated with them,” explained Ayers “They prefer printed flyers or calendars to get this information instead of using technology and online registration. The problem is that [the town] can’t immediately communicate with them when there are schedule changes or important announcements about these programs.”
In December, Ayers’ team will present their findings and solution ideas to their classmates, representatives from the town of Easton and BU’s Initiative on Cities, and BU faculty members.
With graduation just around the corner, Ayers is excited to use these newfound innovation skills and entrepreneurial mindset to fuel her career search.
“These skills are so good to have even if I’m not going to create something of my own. Now I understand the process of creating new ideas and feel like it gives me an advantage in my career,” said Ayers. “Economics is very broad. Now that I have these additional skills, I feel like I have a lot of career tracks to choose from.
Students interested in the Innovation & Entrepreneurship minor can learn more about required coursework and electives on Innovate@BU’s website. The required course, SI250 Ideas2Impact, is currently filled for the spring semester but students can use this form to be added to the waitlist.