Natural Science undergrads to get entrepreneurship, collaboration training

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W. Arthur “Skip” Porter, new Associate Dean of College of Natural Sciences will be hosting a lecture in October and plans to create courses as part of his program to promote entrepreneurship starting next spring.

Photo Credit: Victoria Montalvo | Daily Texan Staff

A new program will train College of Natural Sciences students to market their ideas and start their own companies in the future, said W. Arthur Porter, a new dean of the college who will develop the initiative.

Porter will be instated as the natural sciences associate dean for innovation and science enterprise on Sept. 1. He was hired by interim dean David Laude in efforts to begin integrating entrepreneurship into the college, Porter said.

“Over the next few years I will try to lead the creation of a sequence of courses, organization and collaborations that help students be competitive in the knowledge-based world,” Porter said.

Porter said he is working with students and staff from the Freshman Research Initiative, a program that allows freshman students to directly engage in mentored research. The new program will copy a similar model to train students who will be free to experiment with their talents and ideas under the guidance of professors.

“I want to develop a program that has the same kind of infrastructure,” Porter said. “We’re going to try to get our students connected to the breakthroughs and developments of our faculty as well as to get faculty involved in helping students develop their own inventions and ideas.”

Porter will hold a lecture for the Freshman Research Initiative students on Oct. 2 and 9 as his first step towards building the new program. The lecture will help students be prepared to start companies and build their own careers the non-traditional way, in a world where knowledge-based business is beginning to trump all, Porter said.

Courses in entrepreneurship for natural sciences students will be available in the spring, he said.

Sarah Simmons, an administrator for the Freshman Research Initiative, said the efforts of Porter and Laude to bring entrepreneurship to the college are essential to helping students understand they have a multitude of options available to them after graduation.

“Our students, by being in a research institution, are naturally sort of oriented and trained to think about pursuing grad school and research in an academic setting after college,” Simmons said. “What we do and what they are trying to do is to get students learning to be innovators and problem solvers in a field where everyone needs to be thinking outside the box.”

John Butler, director of the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship Management at the McCombs School of Business, said the center is frequently visited by students from all majors in the University.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship is in all disciplines despite what people may think,” Butler said. “For example as a government major you might want to be a great governor one day and you’ll want to learn how to commercialize yourself to get people to vote for you.”

Butler said the business school also teaches innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship courses supported through the Bridging Disciplines Program that began last fall and that are sponsored by central administration at the University. He said the courses have been extremely successful.

Public health junior Shradha Thakur said entrepreneurship courses could have been extremely helpful early in her college career. She said with job and internship interviews around the corner, she feels she lacks the skills to market herself for potential employers.

Printed on August 30, 2011 as: Dean to weave innovation into sciences