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Carnegie Mellon Opens Year-Long Entrepreneurship Master's in Silicon Valley

In just a few days a small group of students will inaugurate a new kind of master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University's west coast campus in Silicon Valley. These nine people--ranging in age from 21 to 42--will begin a year-long effort to learn how to become entrepreneurs in the heartland of the start-up. As a spiff for being pioneers, the university has told them it will pay incorporation costs for any company they develop during their time with the program. Also, the most promising ideas that surface will get funding from the institution.

The new entrepreneurship program is full-time, accelerated, and lasts one year, earning students a master of science in software management. Tuition is about $57,000 for the year. The focus is on boosting skills in management, metrics, product definition, and strategy. In addition to traditional academic instruction, students will work in teams to develop ideas for new products and services. Participants will undertake a start-up launch as a capstone for the year--which may be a team proposal or a project assigned by faculty. The program will also include guest lecturers and mentors from the start-up and business communities.

A part-time software management master program has been offered for eight years at the west coast institution. Last year Carnegie Mellon decided to introduce areas of concentrations, including product development, service management, enterprise innovation, and, now, entrepreneurship.

The first crop of students, who come from multiple locations, including Africa, were selected based on admission criteria that weighed academic achievement with previous work experience and individual "passion" for embracing innovation.

Before classes officially begin on August 29, students will attend a mandatory eight-day bootcamp. Called the "Idea Workshop," the pre-program leads them through exercises designed to jump-start their creativity and nimbleness, echoing the reality of the world in which they're immersing themselves.

"There is this perception that the greatest innovation in Silicon Valley comes from 20-something, college drop-outs with cool ideas who are creating the next billion-dollar companies in their garages; however, those are the one in a million exceptions to the rule," said Ray Bareiss, director of educational programs at the Silicon Valley campus. "Becoming an entrepreneur not only requires a great idea; it also requires the ability to build a winning team and take your idea to market. You want to succeed or fail based on the merit of your idea, not because you can't manage a software business effectively."

The new program, he added, was designed to teach students to work collaboratively and educates them on what's necessary to launch a successful venture.

At the end of the year the university will choose one or more of the most promising companies and fund their entry into the market, possibly in partnership with the program's business mentors.

Admission for the fall 2012 term starts Dec. 1, 2011. Visit cmu.edu for application information.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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