As director of the Software Productization Center (SPC) at Millersville, Dr. Stephanie Schwartz knows a thing or two about leading young, passionate entrepreneurs into developing their ideas into something more.
That’s why Dr. Schwartz was the best candidate to take the helm as director of the new, interdisciplinary entrepreneurship minor program.
“I think that the minor is a great opportunity for students,” said Dr. Schwartz, a Manheim native.
Dr. Schwartz attended fellow PASSHE School, Shippensburg University for her undergraduate years, receiving her bachelor’s degree in computer science. She went on to the University of Delaware for her graduate years, receiving both her Ph.D and master’s degree in computer and information sciences.
In 2003, Dr. Schwartz joined Millersville University as an associate professor of computer science, and began to leave her mark across the campus by becoming involved in many organizations. She is currently a mentor in the Millersville Mentoring Alliance Program and she was a member of the search committee for the dean of the school of science and mathematics in 2008-09, just to name a few.
But it was her deep involvement in the SPC that motivated her to enter the candidacy as the first director of the entrepreneurship minor program. Dr. Schwartz said, “I’ve worked with a lot of entrepreneurs through the Software Productization Center.”
The SPC provides emerging technology-focused entrepreneurs within the Central Pennsylvania region with assistance in advancing software products from concept to marketable product. They often enter the SPC with one idea. Dr. Schwartz calls entrepreneurs “idea people.” Naturally, they have a lot of ideas, and it’s the SPC’s focus to narrow their ideas down to one, and help them know where they are going.
That’s why, through her passionate involvement, she calls entrepreneurship a “way of thinking.” She continued, “It is a really, really big risk taking that step out and taking your concept and saying, this is the idea that I really believe in enough to try to take it to the next level.”
Unlike the SPC, Dr.Schwartz’s new position as director of the entrepreneurship minor program allows her to focus on others than just business majors.
“The minor in entrepreneurship would be reaching students much earlier and a much broader audience,” she said.
The minor is interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, and last of all, creative. No matter the major, the minor is suited to help propel numerous ideas into a marketable product. Dr.Schwartz said that software engineers could develop apps or social workers could start a social organization. “All of those are entrepreneurial ideas,” she stated.
Currently, the courses are going through the approval process before beginning in the spring semester, falling under the General Education G3 block. The first course is an experimental introductory course called ‘Entrepreneurship 201’. The courses offered will allow students to tap “into a concept, narrowing down into an idea, selling the idea, focusing the idea, being able to present the idea to others,” Dr. Schwartz said. “That’s what entrepreneurs struggle with. They can see the idea so clearly, but until you convince others to come along for the ride, you’re not going to succeed.”
Students who enroll in the minor will go through a cycle that starts off with the way of entrepreneurial thinking and eventually allows the student to tailor it to their desire.
Dr. Schwartz said, “There can be a co-op in the minor. There’s a capstone course where we look at a whole bunch of case studies in entrepreneurship and examine them for success and failure.”
The courses are being rolled out in the process that students may be interested in taking them. For new students in the future, they will also continue down the cycle of classes. Only six new courses will be created for the minor with remaining courses will be drawn from other departments, such as Accounting, Art and Design, and Computer Science.
Dr. Schwartz is also connecting the SPC to the minor program, developing it into a course.
“It’ll be an art course and a computer science course running side-by-side where artists, designers, and computer scientists will collaborate together to develop websites and small products,” she said.
Ultimately, Dr. Schwartz expects students to leave with “an excitement about the possibilities of where not only their knowledge about their major can take them, but their ideas and determination can take them in launching their own organizations and their own businesses.”
She continued, “That’s really what’s going to help not jump start,but to help rebuild the economy is that groundswell of small businesses, small organizations, and energy on the ground.”