$12.5 million gift will fund new Drexel school

Posted: February 01, 2013

With a $12.5 million gift, Drexel University will start a school of entrepreneurship that will help students start and grow their own businesses - and get paid for it, president John A. Fry said Wednesday.

The new school, named after the late Charles D. Close, a 1936 Drexel graduate in engineering, will offer joint degree programs in entrepreneurship and other disciplines across the university.

Some programs within the school will begin in the fall, but students won't officially enroll in the joint degree programs until September 2014.

While there are a small number of entrepreneurship schools around the country, Drexel's will be different in that it will not be attached to the business school and will be "profoundly interdisciplinary," Fry said.

"This is really meant to be, 'Take anything we do here and match it up with entrepreneurship,' " Fry said. "It's another path."

The move comes as Drexel continues plans to start an "innovation neighborhood" abutting 30th Street Station. That area is expected to include five million square feet of commercial office space, research laboratories, student housing, and a hotel.

Fry said he hoped students who develop successful businesses may want to stay in Philadelphia and locate in that neighborhood.

The new entrepreneurship school is even planning on offering a one-credit course called Innovation Neighborhood.

"We want to be known as the university that really spawns innovation all across our university, not just in terms of the faculty work but also the students," Fry said.

The new school becomes the 14th school or college on the 25,500-student campus. It's the first since 2006, when the law school was created.

The money to start the entrepreneurship school came from the Charles and Barbara Close Foundation, and the idea grew out of conversations with foundation trustees, Fry said.

Drexel is known for its co-op program, which sends students into the workforce for a fifth year of study. The entrepreneurship school will allow students to do a co-op in a business they started. They will be paid with foundation money.

"They will have to show us this is an ongoing business, but they can work for themselves and we will fund them," said Donna DeCarolis, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship, who has been named founding dean of the school.

DeCarolis, who once ran a public relations consulting firm and has been at Drexel for 16 years, said the school also would offer a "launch it" course. In the course, students will do market research and develop prototypes, all funded by the school.

Also, students involved in the school will be able to live in the same residential community, similar to students in the honors college, she said.

The school likely will start with two teaching faculty, who have been successful entrepreneurs, but will largely rely on joint appointments from existing faculty in other disciplines.

"It sends the wrong message to go off and hire separate faculty," Fry said, "because we really want this to be a multidisciplinary thing."

Officials had no projection on how many students the school may attract. It also will include a group of elective courses open to all students.


Contact Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or ssnyder@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ssnyderinq

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