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New Graduate Entrepreneurship Certificate Promises Edge, Flexibility

Emerson is rolling out a new graduate certificate program for budding entrepreneurs with lots of ideas and energy, but not a lot of time.

Enrollment is now open for the Graduate Entrepreneurship Certificate Program, with classes starting in Fall 2017. The course consists of five 3-credit online classes, plus an immersive, two-day kickoff session on Emerson’s Boston campus.

“This exciting new graduate certificate program in entrepreneurship builds on Emerson’s longstanding reputation for creativity and innovation,” said Provost Michaele Whelan. “Combining real-world experience with research, this program will equip professionals with the skills and framework to address their business challenges.”

Watch the Entrepreneurship at Emerson video.

Emerson has produced a steady stream of entrepreneurs from every academic department over the years. Over the past decade, many of those startup founders have been alumni of the Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship (E3) undergraduate minor, led by Senior Executive-in-Residence Lu Ann Reeb.   

Now Reeb is adding the graduate certificate to the College’s offerings, and said the new program will combine the hands-on experience and interactivity of a traditional graduate program with the flexibility of an online course.

“[Certificate students] will have the framework and all the elements they need to launch,” Reeb said of the program.

Reeb herself will teach a Social Entrepreneurship class, as well as lead the kickoff session. There, students will spend two days at Emerson, hearing from speakers, participating in hackathons, and completing experiential assignments in Boston.

Other Emerson faculty will teach courses in Monetizing and Scaling the Startup, Legal Essentials, Networking and PR for Entrepreneurs, and the Emerson Edge Venture Pitch. The last is a culmination of the program that requires students to submit a go-to-market plan, a timeline, and a five-minute pitch delivered online, or, if the student is local, in person.

The entire program, from beginning to end, takes nine months, and much of the online coursework is asynchronous, meaning students can fit it into their own schedules. That’s attractive to working professionals who want the skills and credentials higher education can provide but can’t or don’t want to commit to a formal master’s program, Reeb said.

“They can do it before work, they can do it at lunch, they can do it whenever,” Reeb said.

Emerson has long offered a number of certificate programs in topics such as Copyediting, Digital Media Production, Graphic Novel Writing and Illustration, Marketing and Branding, and Screenwriting. There’s even a certificate in Makeup Artistry taught by pros trained by alumna, Trustee, and makeup mogul Bobbi Brown ’79.

The Entrepreneurship program is different in two major respects, said Lesley Nichols, executive director of Professional Studies, the Emerson department that offers the certificate programs.

For one thing, the graduate-level coursework allows students to transfer credits if they eventually decide to pursue a full master’s degree, whether at Emerson or another school. And because it’s a graduate program, employers may be willing to offer tuition reimbursement, Nichols said.

“We are very excited about this,” Nichols said. “This program builds very well on the undergraduate side of success in the entrepreneurial field.”

Reeb began researching graduate certificate programs a couple of years ago, when an entrepreneurship course she was offering was consistently filling up. She ran it by the Marketing Communication chair and Graduate and Professional Studies Dean Jan Roberts-Breslin, who was interested in expanding the options for graduate students.

Many professionals today are looking for “stackable credentials,” with opportunities like certificates, bootcamps, and workshops that impart a lot of knowledge quickly, she said.

“A lot of people are more interested in getting the skills and information than a more prolonged graduate program,” said Roberts-Breslin. The graduate school is working on developing more programs like this one, in areas such as Communication Studies, Journalism, and Publishing, she said.

The College has had a lot of inquiries about the program, and applications are rolling in. Because the entrepreneurship certificate offers graduate credit, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, but otherwise enrollment is open. And Emerson alumni get a discount on tuition, Roberts-Breslin said.

Reeb, the program’s director, said she and her colleagues will be looking for feedback from the first cohort of students to go through the program, so the coursework can be tailored to what the market—and students’ ambitions—demand.

“One of the hopes I have when I teach entrepreneurship is to provide students with the insight and tools so they don’t make the same mistakes I did [starting out],” Reeb said. “If I had had a certificate program, if I had had E3, it would’ve been so much smoother.”

Visit the program site. 


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