Supporting Startups: University Centers for Entrepreneurship

The startup wave refuses to recede. More and more students are opting to start their own business or partnering with other bright minds instead of taking up a traditional 9-5 job. As demand for entrepreneurship grows, so does the need for guidance for budding entrepreneurs. Many universities have noted this trend and established centers dedicated to entrepreneurship that provides an active community, educational activities, and networking opportunities to startup founders.

Many entrepreneurship centers offer specialized courses and a curriculum that cover business fundamentals, marketing, and finance. Some of these centers also hold business plan competitions, awarding cash prizes and support services to the most innovative and market-ready businesses. Members of these centers can also take advantage of the vast number of networking events and access to mentorship from local and global business leaders. Students must be enrolled in the university with which the center is affiliated, or be alumni.

Below are 15 of the top entrepreneurship centers around the country.

The Lavin Entrepreneurship Center, San Diego State University

The Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at San Diego State University aims to ignite the spirit of entrepreneurship among its students through its workshops, events, and programs. The center’s entrepreneurship program has been named one of the best in the country by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine. It is spread over two years and open to San Diego University’s undergraduate students.

To be accepted, students must have some entrepreneurial experience, a growth-oriented mindset, and a good GPA. The curriculum revolves around lean business frameworks and models. It covers core business topics such as target market segments, key partners, customer relationship building, distribution channels, cost structure, and revenue. Along with theoretical knowledge, students also get experiential learning opportunities, mentorship, and guidance.

The Lavin Entrepreneurship Center also has several other initiatives such as social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship residencies, conferences, internships, and scholarships. It also hosts mentoring sessions, entrepreneur days where students are encouraged to sell their products and ideas, company site visits, and the Lavin VentureStart competition.

The Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, Bauer College

The Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the Bauer College ranks second in the United States, among the top undergraduate schools for entrepreneurship studies, as per the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine. One of the main highlights of the Houston, Texas-based center is its bachelor’s degree in business administration (BBA) in entrepreneurship. The program covers topics such as revenue, costs, capital, business plans, and implementation. Admission to the program is competitive, with only 35 to 40 students getting accepted each year.

The Wolff Center’s programs are enriched with dedicated sessions on entrepreneurship, delivered by experienced mentors and instructors. These mentorship talks and networking opportunities expose students to the essential facts about starting a business. The mentoring program helps students build a robust professional network during their studies, and the class is divided into small groups, each having a specific industry focus. The center also offers certificate courses in corporate, technology, and social entrepreneurship and hosts an annual business plan competition.

The Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship in Ann Arbor aims to inspire and build Michigan’s entrepreneurial community. It brings together ideas, people, resources, and technology, fostering innovation in the community. CFE provides various learning experiences for undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and researchers.

One of its major offerings is a 12-credit certificate course in innovation and entrepreneurship. This course is open to currently registered Ann Arbor campus masters, PhD, and professional students from all schools and colleges. The program helps them develop skills in business, leadership, and critical thinking, helping them stand out to their future employers. Some of the topics it covers include coding, hardware, 3D printing, introduction to entrepreneurship, and digital production design.

Students also get a chance to interact with industry leaders through conferences and events. The conferences focus on industries such as agriculture, mobility, IoT, big data, energy, defense, and healthcare.

The Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at the University of California, Berkeley

The Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the University of California, Berkeley offers many opportunities and programs for students, professionals, and academics. The center’s primary focus is technology and innovation; it provides the chance to research new ideas and implement them successfully. SCET’s program, X at Berkeley, encourages students and professionals to work on emerging technologies, such as data analytics, blockchain, plant-based meats, autonomous cars, cybersecurity, and more.

The center offers many other programs such as a certificate in entrepreneurship and technology, the Silicon Valley Innovation Leadership Week, and a startup semester at Berkeley. The certificate in entrepreneurship and technology is for students registered in UC Berkeley in any major.

The SCET is also well known for developing the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship. The main elements of this method are frameworks, mindset, and networks. Frameworks are the cases and tactics to use in entrepreneurship, mindset helps students prepare themselves for being an entrepreneur, and networks help students make connections with mentors and teams. This method is used to teach technology entrepreneurship to doctorate students, technology firm leaders, professionals, and executives.

The Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Tulane University

The Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is an initiative of the A. B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. The center brings together students, inventors, scholars, and investors for solving complex problems and building sustainable businesses. It supports students at Tulane, in New Orleans, and across communities in the Southern Gulf.

Many organizations support the center and its budding entrepreneurs, such as the Tulane University Family Business Center, the Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship (LRI), and the Tulane Business Model Competition. The LRI hosts workshops, conducts entrepreneurship research, and helps students collaborate with industry leaders and investors. The Tulane Business Model competition gives students a chance to win more than $40,000 cash prizes for their startup ideas. The contest is open to early-stage ventures that have validated their idea in the market. Students can also apply for the Lepage Student Fellowship, which is a paid position with local entrepreneurs.

The Center for Entrepreneurship at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

The Embry-Riddle Center for Entrepreneurship in Daytona Beach, Florida, aims to educate and connect aspiring entrepreneurs. Students receive support in building high-growth companies in industries such as computer science, engineering, aerospace, and aeronautics. Open to students, faculty, and alumni of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the center hosts many extracurricular activities and provides research opportunities to students. Graduates can also work with and learn from fast-growing companies.

The center is a sponsor of the regional I-Corps South events, where entrepreneurs are taught about customer discovery and crafting a startup’s value proposition. It has several other programs that allow students to learn from seasoned entrepreneurs, as well as from each other.

The Center for Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University

Arizona State University’s renowned W. P. Carey School of Business helps its entrepreneurial community through the Center for Entrepreneurship, which provides students with the resources and knowledge that help them launch successful companies. Students work closely with mentors and executives to discuss and validate their ideas.

The Tempe-based center hosts several initiatives, such as the Pakis Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, which is a competition for social entrepreneurs looking to build a sustainable future and is open to all ASU students.

Another essential feature of the Center for Entrepreneurship is the ASU Startup School, which it runs in collaboration with Y Combinator. The program consists of workshops open to students, faculty, staff, recent alumni, and postdocs, and prepares students to apply for seed funding from Y Combinator and angel investment groups. Other resources provided by the school include more than 20 hours of entrepreneurship training as well as specially curated articles on the subject.

The Center For Entrepreneurship Education at Northeastern University

In the heart of Boston, Northeastern University’s Center for Entrepreneurship Education has many courses in entrepreneurship and innovation for undergraduates and graduate students, alumni, and faculty. The courses are taught by professors with extensive real-world experience in launching and leading new ventures and provide students with the necessary skills and know-how to start a company.

Students are trained to develop business concepts and make ventures ready for investment. They also have access to the local angel and VC community, which is extensive in Boston, as well as an on-campus accelerator, IDEA. IDEA provides students with resources, such as mentoring; coaching; access to legal, accounting and marketing service providers; and even gap funding to help them reach specific milestones. IDEA also has a prototype fund, providing students with awards for prototype development.

The Center for Entrepreneurship is also home to Mosaic, a student-run alliance that incubates early-stage startups. Students can apply for venture incubation grants, collaboration grants, and seed grants.

L. William Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Dayton

The L. William Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Dayton in Ohio provides students with several opportunities to start their own business. Students interact with venture capitalists, local entrepreneurs, and company leaders, and learn valuable lessons.

The University of Dayton emphasizes experiential learning and gives students an opportunity to start a micro-company. Entrepreneurship majors at Dayton work in teams of seven to develop ideas and launch a company. The Crotty Center provides more than $60,000 in capital to these micro-businesses. The University of Dayton also has an undergraduate entrepreneurship program with a particular focus on hands-on learning, mentorship programs, and community involvement.

Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis

The Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship encourages students to meet the local community’s needs and solve real problems that need solving. With a focus on innovative thinking, it provides students with the opportunity to work with visionaries, thought leaders, and changemakers at Washington University. It inspires students to think creatively and lead their own companies in the new economy.

The center, located in St. Louis, Missouri, is open to students, alumni, faculty members, and staff at the Washington University. Its goal is to help students connect with the right opportunities, gain practical startup skills, and get funding. The Skandalaris Center also hosts three business plan competitions, including the LEAP Inventor Challenge, which provides more than $700,000 in funding every year to WashU-affiliated ventures.

The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute at Temple University

The Fox School of Business’ Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute at Temple University provides students, alumni, faculty, business advisors, and entrepreneurs with the opportunity to work on startup ventures in real-time. The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine ranks Temple’s undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship programs among the top 10 in the nation.

The institute has many initiatives for promoting entrepreneurship including the League for Entrepreneurial Women, Be Your Own Boss, and The Musser Series. It is also home to Temple University’s first-of-its-kind entrepreneurial lab, Innovate and Create LLC. This is a place for students to discuss their ideas, no matter how outlandish, and receive feedback.

The Philadelphia-based center also holds fireside chats, startup weekends, and seminars for entrepreneurs. The Temple Small Business Development Center (SBDC) incubator program provides small business with consulting, office space, and training, so they can flourish. Thanks to the large number of partnerships that the university has with regional and international businesses, students from the university have open doors to several industries, including, financial services, healthcare, information technology, hospitality, tourism, and biotechnology.

The Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University

The Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship promotes entrepreneurship in and around Syracuse University. It has many innovative programs and tools that help students develop successful ventures. Since its launch, more than 270 students have launched around 200 companies.

The institute houses many associations and departments that facilitate entrepreneurial activity. One such space is the Couri Hatchery, a coworking space as well as a mentorship program, helping students develop and grow their company. Falcone also hosts the Panasci Business Plan Competition, that awards over $40,000 cash prizes to teams with the best startup ideas and potential. Another one of its initiatives is the WISE Women’s Business Center—with WISE being an acronym for Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship—providing coaching, counseling, and networking opportunities for women entrepreneurs and business leaders.

The Entrepreneurship Center at Ball State University

Ball State University’s Entrepreneurship Center has earned a name for grooming innovators and entrepreneurs through rigorous courses, networking opportunities, and hands-on learning. The center, located in Muncie, Indiana, offers a bachelor’s, a minor, and a master’s of business administration in entrepreneurship.

The bachelor’s program ranks among the top 25 undergraduate entrepreneurship programs, as per the Princeton Review. The entrepreneurial major comprises of 120 credits, and consist of business foundation courses, specialized entrepreneurship curriculum, university core curriculum, and general electives. The program also helps students engage with the startup community at large.

The Entrepreneurship Center encourages students to get out of the classroom and gain hands-on learning experience through company-visits, alumni meetups, and networking with business leaders. Students work with clients, complete internships, and attend lectures from prominent business innovators. Some of the other initiatives of the center include Learning Days, Mentor Day, Entrepreneurial Experience Lecture Series, and Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

The Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at DePaul University

The Coleman Entrepreneurship Center is an entrepreneurship hub for students, alumni, and community members of Chicago. The center encourages them to build sustainable businesses by providing access to specialized courses and programs, experiential learning opportunities, and a vibrant startup ecosystem. Its Startup Internship Program connects undergraduate students with local Chicago startup founders. All students of DePaul University are welcome to apply for the program. It also hosts the Student Innovation Expo and the Purpose Pitch Competition, which challenges participants to come up with sustainable business plans in Chicago. Coleman’s Women in Entrepreneurship Institute is the first organization in the nation to support women founders with academic learning, funding, incubation, research, and public policy to promote the success of female-founded companies.

The John F. Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship & Free Enterprise at Baylor University

The John F. Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise helps and supports businesses, locally, nationally, and internationally. The center supports student startup founders by way of academics, leadership and networking opportunities. Its Entrepreneurship Internship Program helps students develop real-world skills and make professional connections.

The organization also hosts the Baylor New Venture Competition, a two-day startup pitch competition. Ventures are created, managed, and owned by students. Apart from a cash prize, students also gain valuable feedback from experts as well as coaching. Students pursuing a major or minor in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University can also apply for scholarships. These are awarded to deserving students who do well academically and demonstrate financial need.

Farheen Gani
Farheen Gani

Farheen Gani is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about healthcare, technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).

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