Entrepreneurship Principles and Tools

By Seth Robinson

We spoke with Professor Gerda Gemser to find out more about Entrepreneurship Principles and Tools, one of the University’s newest and most exciting Breadth courses.

The need to take Breadth subjects is one of the things that makes studying at the University of Melbourne a truly unique experience. Students engage with courses from outside their discipline, learning to think, create, and solve problems in a variety of ways. Accounting students join choirs, musicians get a taste for economics, and aspiring designers might find themselves falling in love with history or philosophy. Now, students from across the university are getting a glimpse of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, in Entrepreneurship Principles and Tools. We spoke with Course Co-Ordinator, Professor Gerda Gemser to find out more.

Professor Gerda Gemser
Professor Gerda Gemser

‘We think of this course as planting the seeds of entrepreneurship. It’s a new a way for students to think about their careers and another path that they might be able to explore once they graduate, whatever their degree. One of the assignments is to come up with an original idea for a new product or service. Doing work like that alongside your studies broadens your skillset, and even if their projects don’t necessarily become the next unicorn, it’s very good for them to engage with the process and see what happens,’ says Professor Gemser. ‘The course is also taught with input from multiple faculties. We at the Faculty of Business and Economics are the hosts, but we also have input from the School of Engineering and the School of Law, and that’s reflected in the course content.’

Along with the content, the course cohort is an interesting mix, which has led to some fantastic opportunities for collaboration across disciplines.

‘Approximately 40% of our students are coming from the business disciplines, but the remainder of the cohort come from across the entirety of the university. It was always the intention to bring students from different disciplines together, but what has been really interesting is that while the subject is a first-year breadth course, it’s also open to second and third-year undergrads. As a result, we have students from a range of age groups, and at different stages of their university journey. The course is partly based on group work and bringing all these students together is a great opportunity for the students to experience collaboration in diverse teams; and we’ve received some really interesting feedback about the mix.’

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But is entrepreneurship really something you can teach? Or is it something that’s more innate?

‘Look, I think you definitely can,’ she laughs. ‘I mean, I am a professor of entrepreneurship. A course like this is a taste, but when we talk about teaching entrepreneurship we think about providing tools and techniques and insights that will be helpful in creating a new venture. It’s also important to highlight that the roles you take on as an entrepreneur will be different. You could be a new founder, but then you source help from other people. Suppose you’re an engineer with product expertise, but then you need to support when it comes to speaking to and engaging with stakeholders. So, we talk about balancing those skillsets and how to source expertise. There’s also an important element of discussing the journey and revealing some of what lies ahead. It’s true, we learn by making mistakes, but there are also mistakes other people have made before, that you can learn from without having to make them yourself. It’s all about preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs and facilitating their journey as much as possible.’

Entrepreneurship Principles and Tools runs twice a year, in Semester 1 and Semester 2. Visit the course page to find out more.