Entrepreneurship considered for arts faculty

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Over the last six months, the dean of arts office has been developing a proposal for a new social entrepreneurship option for arts students, the first of its kind in Canada. Although not yet a certainty, if the proposal is passed, the program could be implemented by September of 2014.

The proposal has the program set up as a four-credit option, available to all arts students beginning in their first-year. Michel Desjardins, associate dean of arts for curriculum and research, is the point person for the creation of this program. He discussed the type of student who will benefit from this program.

“If their priority is to make a social change in the world, then they’re good candidates for the program. They have to reflect long and hard about their values and priorities,” said Desjardins.

With an emphasis on engaged learning, the program hopes to start local and also provide students with some global experience abroad.

The main purpose of social entrepreneurship is to address both local and global social problems by creating systemic and sustainable changes. This program will encourage students to make a positive difference by utilizing good business strategies in combination with the arts ethos of making a difference.

Desjardins emphasized the importance of a social entrepreneurship lens when addressing social problems in the business field.

“What’s going to solve some of these problems and ultimately make systemic changes is if you get people together who can combine good business strategies for-profit or non-profit, with good thinking about social issues.”

The program hopes to provide students with necessary business skills, which can be utilized in creating a positive difference.

“There are other ways to make money and you can be more satisfied as a human being if your purpose is to make a systemic change,” said Desjardins.

Recently, the global studies department has agreed to manage the social entrepreneurship option.

“There’s a tendency to think it’s all hopeless. We see social entrepreneurship as the flip side to this. Here are the big problems and here is a way of thinking to deal with these problems,” explained Timothy Donais, chair and associate professor for global studies.

The program is unique in its emphasis on both making a living and a positive difference at the same time, something that concerns many arts students.

“We are still a liberal arts approach, in terms of the questions asked and the problems we are interested in. We’re trying to bridge the gap between the business world and the liberal arts world,” explained Donais.

Michael Carroll, dean of the faculty of arts, commented on the importance of creativity and innovation within social entrepreneurship.

“There is a longstanding commitment found in arts students to make the world a better place and this is designed to give them the skills they need to do just that, so I think it will be very popular,” said Carroll.

“This is a great thing for the faculty of arts, but also for Laurier,” he continued. “This is an entrepreneurship program tailored to the specific interests of arts students.”

The proposal is, however, still in the process of development.

“Each step is open to discussion. The form of it could change and the specifics could change and there’s a possibility that the whole thing could go down the tube,” explained Desjardins.

Despite this, he feels positively about the potential for the proposal to pass through the various levels of approval necessary to implement academic changes at Laurier.

“So far the reception has been good and positive…it has the potential to be really transformative,” he added.

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