The certificate program in entrepreneurship provides curricular structure for undergraduate students who wish to make entrepreneurship an important part of their intellectual journey at Brown. Offered in conjunction with the School of Engineering, it builds upon Brown’s interdisciplinary approach to liberal arts education and commitment to the exploratory spirit of the open curriculum.
Students pursuing the entrepreneurship certificate take a five course sequence, comprising two foundational courses, two elective courses, and an experiential course in which they develop and advance an entrepreneurial project of their own design.
The goal of the certificate program is to equip students with an understanding of the fundamental building blocks of the entrepreneurial process. These building blocks are:
- Understanding and validating an unmet need.
- Developing a value proposition that addresses an unmet need.
- Designing a sustainability model that allows the value proposition to be delivered repeatedly at scale.
The awareness that entrepreneurship is a structured process for problem solving — not a function of having an “entrepreneurial spirit” or of working in a particular industry or sector — is a central tenet of how we understand entrepreneurship. As students develop this understanding and develop proficiency in the process, they will discover the full range of contexts in which they can apply it.
The College Curriculum Council has provided an overview of undergraduate certificates at Brown, as well as detailed guidelines for students who wish to pursue them, including the certificate in entrepreneurship. Students may declare their intention to pursue a certificate in entrepreneurship if they meet the following criteria:
- I have only one approved concentration on file in ASK.
- I have completed or I am enrolled in at least two courses that meet the certificate in entrepreneurship requirements
- I have included a written statement in ASK discussing my rationale for pursuing a Certificate in Entrepreneurship and the relationship between it and my declared concentration.
- I am enrolled in at least my fifth or sixth semester.
- It is no later than the last day of classes in my antepenultimate (typically the sixth) semester
- I am not pursuing another certificate at Brown University.
- I am not participating in the Engaged Scholars Program.
- I am pursuing only one concentration at Brown University.
- I have no more than one course for my Certificate in Entrepreneurship that overlaps with my declared concentration.
- If I am a student pursuing a 5th year combined degree at Brown University, I have, in advance of the certificate deadlines, successfully petitioned the Committee on Academic Standing for the option to pursue a certificate.
To earn the certificate in entrepreneurship, a student must complete a five course sequence designed to introduce foundational entrepreneurial concepts, extend those concepts into specific areas of student interest, and put those concepts into action through an experiential practicum where they develop real-world entrepreneurial projects of their own design.
- Two Core Courses (ENGN 0090 and ENGN 1010)
- Two Elective Courses
- One Practicum Experiential Course (ENGN 1931T)
Below is more detailed description of each of these courses as well as the list of elective options currently available for certificate candidates.
ENGN 0090: Management of Industrial and Nonprofit Organizations
Thano Chaltas / Barrett Hazeltine
Exposes students to the concepts and techniques of management. Topics include marketing, strategy, finance, operations, organizational structure, and human relations. Guest lecturers describe aspects of actual organizations. Lectures and discussions.
ENGN 1010: The Entrepreneurial Process
Danny Warshay / Jason Harry / Fran Slutsky / Jon Cohen
Entrepreneurship is innovation in practice: transforming ideas into opportunities, and, through a deliberate process, opportunities into commercial realities. These entrepreneurial activities can take place in two contexts: the creation of new organizations; and within existing organizations. This course will present an entrepreneurial framework for these entrepreneurial processes, supported by case studies that illustrate essential elements. Successful entrepreneurs and expert practitioners will be introduced who will highlight practical approaches to entrepreneurial success.
BIOL 2089: The Importance of Intellectual Property in Biotechnology
Jeff Morgan / Dan Holmander
This course delves into the various roles of intellectual property in biotechnology. In addition to providing a solid foundation in the fundamentals of intellectual property, the course will use case studies in biotechnology to explore in depth the interplay between specific scientific breakthroughs and intellectual property. An understanding of the science of biotechnology is critical for advanced understanding of the value and possibilities of biotechnology intellectual property.
CSCI 1900: CSCI Startup
In CSCI Startup, you will incorporate and run a startup. Apply as a team to be part of a prototype class to remove the mystery from starting a company and to focus entirely on a product you’re passionate about. We will learn by doing. Each team will incorporate, build a product for real customers, advertise their product, and improve it week after week. We’ll spend at least half of our class meetings with individual attention to each group’s progress and how to improve your offerings. Assignments will be designed to apply to any company, with enough flexibility to ensure you’re always working on things that make sense for your business.
ECON 1490: Designing Internet Marketplaces
How has the digital economy changed market interactions? The goal of this course is to help you think critically, using economic theory, about the future of the digital economy. What are important economic activities now being conducted digitally? How has digital implementation of these activities changed economists’ classical views and assumptions? What are ways in which we can use economics to engineer “better” digital markets? We will focus on several real-world markets (eg. eBay, Airbnb, Google advertising, Uber, Tinder, TaskRabbit) and topics (eg. market entry, pricing, search, auctions, matching, reputation, peer-to-peer platform design).
ECON 1730: Venture Capital, Private Equity, and Entrepreneurship
Rafael La Porta
This course will use a combination of lectures and case discussions to prepare students to make decisions, both as entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, regarding the financing of rapidly growing firms. The course will focus on the following five areas:
1. Business valuation
3. Venture Capital Industry
ENGN 0020: Transforming Society-Technology and Choices for the Future
This course will address the impact that technology has on society, the central role of technology on many political issues, and the need for all educated individuals to understand basic technology and reach an informed opinion on a particular topic of national or international interest. The course will begin with a brief history of technology.
ENGN 0900: Managerial Decision Making
Thano Chaltas / Barrett Hazeltine
Ways of making effective decisions in managerial situations, especially situations with a significant technological component; decision analysis; time value of money; competitive situations; forecasting; planning and scheduling; manufacturing strategy; corporate culture.
ENGN 0110: Lean Launchpad
The Lean LaunchPad (LLP) is a Wintersession course on how to build a startup using lean startup tools and frameworks. It is a hands-on, intensive, experiential course designed for student teams who are serious about pursuing a startup. The course teaches Customer Development, which requires students to get out of the building and test their business hypotheses with real customers, and uses the Business Model Canvas as a scorecard.
ENGN 1931Q: Entrepreneurial Management in Adversity
“Sweet are the uses of Adversity,” said William Shakespeare. But then again, Shakespeare never had his ventures explode on him. Companies get into trouble all the time – they make the wrong products for the market, their sales fail to meet quota, their factories go on strike. But this course is not about the day-to-day problems that companies run into. It examines what action items a venture must do when its very existence is at stake. This is the situation where time is the critical element – there isn’t enough time to hire consultants, do research, hire new employees – it is when Top Management must make decisions often with insufficient data and a series of alternative options – all of which seem ‘sub-optimal.’ But one must be chosen.
ENGN 1931W: Selling & Sales Leadership in the Entrepreneurial Environment
Nothing happens until a sale is made. That simple point underlines the critical importance of sales. Almost every business plan “assumes” a certain amount of sales but that assumption is the tipping point. Without sales the entire business model is an exercise in frustration. The CEO, CFO and the General Manager must not only understand the sales process but also embrace the fact that the ability to sell is the single most critical success factor of any enterprise, whether new or ongoing.
PLCY 1910: Social Entrepreneurship
Bill Allen / Alan Harlam
This course introduces students to social innovation and social entrepreneurship and engages them in identifying significant issues, problems, tools, strategies and models that drive bold solutions to complex contemporary problems. Enrollment limit is 40.
SOC 1060: Leadership of Organizations
What is leadership? What makes a great leader? Can leadership be learned? Improved? This course explores various theoretical approaches to leadership using a combination of lectures and case-study analysis. Additionally, it aims at developing your personal leadership skills by using self-exploration and reflection, self-assessment instruments, role-play, and feedback from peers.
SOC 1220: Future of Work
The Future of Work refers to technological advances in brain science, AI, blockchain, machine and deep learning that have the potential to substantially change our work experiences, organizations and society. These changes can bring many positive benefits and also raise ethical concerns when technology is used to predict human behavior, replace employees, create a contingent/low-wage workforce, or drive autonomous vehicles. This class will examine how the world of work is changing, how these changes relate to organizations and entrepreneurship, and what skills are necessary to shape the Future of Work in ways that are sustainable, ethical and inclusive.
SOC 1260: Market Research in Public and Private Sectors
Introduction to data and research methods for private and public sector organizations. Data used in market research include trends in the population of consumers, economic trends, trends within sectors and industries, analyses of product sales and services, and specific studies of products, promotional efforts, and consumer reactions. Emphasizes the use of demographic, GIS, and other available data.
SOC 1871O: Law, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
This seminar explores the relationship between legal institutions and macro-organizational change. The course devotes particular attention to the legal and organizational processes that shape (and are shaped by) the emergence of new technologies, new enterprises, and new industries. Although discussions may touch on technical aspects of law and/or entrepreneurship, most topics and materials focus on the general sociological processes that underlie changing organizational environments. The seminar is aimed at advanced students who have some prior familiarity with the sociology of law is helpful, but not essential. Through shared and individual readings, weekly discussions, and e-mail dialogues, the course provides an opportunity for students to refine and extend their thinking on important and controversial topics at the intersection of the contemporary organizational and socio-legal literatures.
(typically fall only)
UNIV 1089: Global Dynamics and Critical Perspectives on Immigrant Entrepreneurship in the United States
Immigrants now start more than a quarter of U.S. businesses, despite accounting for less than 15 percent of the total population (Kerr & Kerr, Harvard Business Review 2016). Also, a 2018 National Bureau of Economic Research study found that nearly 45 percent of immigrant business owners were women. This course traces the U.S. history of immigrant, ethnic and religious minority groups (e.g., Italian, Jewish and German entrepreneurs) starting from the 18th century to the rise of immigrant Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Cuban and Iranian-owned businesses that particularly occurred during 20th Century. We also examine emerging immigrant entrepreneurs among national origin groups that historically had low rates of self-employment, such as Mexicans and Filipinos, and among the newest of the more recent immigrant groups, including Vietnamese, Cambodians, Bolivians, Ethiopians and Eritreans. This course also examines the specific role that immigrant women and refugees play as entrepreneurs. In recent years, we have witnessed remarkable shifts in immigrant entrepreneurship, from local, labor-intensive, service-oriented enterprises to global, knowledge-intensive, and professional services. These entrepreneurs have developed businesses various industries including hospitality, food services, garment, health care and medicine, biotech, and technology.
UNIV 1207: Eco-Entrepreneurship
Environmental, business, and social opportunities are often seen as being at odds. This course is a hands-on, interactive journey to explore bringing an impactful idea for an environmental product/service/solution into the world and designing a business plan to do so. You will identify an environmental area of opportunity, learn how to focus on the problem before the solution, identify the key stakeholders including your users/customers, and build a business model. You will look at the triple bottom line, and learn new tools, best practices, and frameworks to breathe life into your solution and make it viable.
URBN 1943: The Real Estate Development Process: An Entrepreneurial Lens
Real estate development is the ongoing configuration of the built environment for society’s needs. The improved spaces in which we live, work, and play all started as ideas initiated and brought to fruition. Every real estate project, whether it’s making use of unused land or redeveloping existing properties, is in essence a separate business undertaking employing the three factors of production – land, labor, and capital – to create a new or changed product. These factors are coordinated by entrepreneurial management and delivered by teams.
ENGN 1931T: Entrepreneurship Practicum: Starting, Running, and Scaling Ventures
The Entrepreneurship Practicum is an experiential, project-based course designed to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into real ventures that can achieve “impact at scale.” This course is designed to help student venture teams to work in a structured way. It provides supportive mentorship and content so that students make significant progress on their venture and learn to go from idea to action. The course can now be found in CAB, but if you have any questions about it, please contact Jonas Clark (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We would be happy to answer questions you may have about the certificate. Please make sure to visit our FAQ below, but if you need additional help or have further questions, we are here to help.
Do I need to take the certificate classes in a specific order? What if I have taken two classes that count as electives but not the two foundational courses?
Technically yes you can pursue it, but we would strongly advise students to start with the foundational courses first. Learning the fundamentals will enable you to get more out of your elective courses and better equip you identify worthwhile entrepreneurial projects.
Do I need to have a specific idea to take the practicum? What if I don’t have a specific project in mind?
Yes you should have a specific project in mind in order to take the Entrepreneurship Practicum (ENGN 1931T). In fact, the practicum is an application-only course, and that application centers on the student’s proposed venture project. While early stage ventures often change and evolve, at minimum students applying to the practicum should have a clearly identified problem space as well as a proposed solution to that problem (and better yet a possible way to test that solution). In short, the practicum is a serious undertaking and most students spend huge quantities of time on their projects. If you have completed all of the other certificate requirements but don’t have a project in mind, we recommend waiting to take the practicum until you do.
Is the certificate primarily designed to support for-profit entrepreneurship? What if I am interested in social entrepreneurship, for example?
The certificate – and the Nelson Center in general – is designed to support entrepreneurship as problem solving. That’s the way we teach entrepreneurship, as a structured process for identifying problems and developing scalable solutions to those problems. We don’t define entrepreneurship by a particular industry or sector. Our entrepreneurs put this process to work on a dazzlingly diverse set of issues and problem spaces, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.