Sophomore Adrienne Baer always knew she wanted to help people. That’s why she started college on the pre-med track.
But after enrolling in an entrepreneurial course at this university, Baer realized there were other ways to help others — so she swapped all pre-med courses for non-profit courses in the business school.
The individual studies major’s switch to becoming an entrepreneur is one example of this university’s dedication to self-starters, which has secured it a ranking for the fourth consecutive year on Princeton Review’s “Best Colleges for Entrepreneurs” list for 2015.
This university ranked No. 9 among public universities, and its undergraduate program placed 21st overall.
“The university has a great heritage of entrepreneurship,” said Dean Chang, associate vice president for innovation and entrepreneurship. “UMD had one of the first entrepreneurship centers in the business school and the engineering school, and both are coming up to close to 30 years. It’s nice that a national ranking acknowledges the great things going on.”
The Princeton Review ranking is based on college-submitted surveys to evaluate the percentage of students and faculty involved in entrepreneurship, funding for student projects, and in-classroom and extracurricular dedication to innovation and entrepreneurship.
University President Wallace Loh launched the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in 2013. The academy includes “Fearless Ideas” courses to problem solve and invent together. The amount of students enrolled in these courses has since doubled, with 5,000 in 2013-14 compared to about 2,400 in past years.
Chang said the main reasons for this rise are living-learning programs such as College Park Scholars and the integration of entrepreneurial courses into the General Education system.
“President Loh wants to engage every single one of our 37,000 students in innovation and entrepreneurship,” Chang said. “In order to engage students in arts, humanities, social sciences and other non-business and non-engineering fields, we are teaching them to think of themselves as startups and to act entrepreneurially in non-business outlets and pursuits in addition to startup companies.”
This university also celebrates 30 Days of EnTERPreneurship in April to commend the campus’ efforts and reward students’ ideas and innovations.
This university is particularly strong in offering extracurricular activities regarding entrepreneurship, such as the Do Good Challenge, an eight-week competition for students looking to improve society, Chang said.
Baer initially realized her interest in entrepreneurship after completing a Do Good Challenge project as part of an entrepreneurship class. She created care packages for needy children in a program known as “Gift to Uplift.” Baer said she would gladly enroll in more courses in the future.
“I think that sometimes people go in and they just do their Gen Eds and CORE courses, but the ‘Fearless Idea’ courses are so unique to Maryland. Everyone should take one,” Baer said. “I fell so in love with my ‘Fearless Ideas’ course that it completely changed the way I thought of myself.”
During the spring 2014 semester, College Park Scholars Life Sciences students took part in an academy workshop and were challenged to use pipe cleaners and Popsicle sticks to come up with prototypes to improve dental hygiene.
“We heard from a lot of students that they have a lot of interest [in these courses,] but have little flexibility to take courses that are not required for their major,” Chang said. “We are trying to embed it.”
Junior mechanical engineering major Ghedalia Gold-Pastor created the app “Puzzable” through a Fearless Founders course.
He said these courses are important because they challenge students to do things on their own, and they help students discover more about themselves.
“This is going to be the best class you take in your college career,” Gold-Pastor said.