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New Undergraduate Academies Spotlight Entrepreneurship, Sustainability

Each academy hosts learning opportunities and trips related to a theme, creating a sense of community within a large university

Release Date: September 6, 2012

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Matthew Epstein, CEO and co-founder of AppVue, discusses his experience as an entrepreneur with students in UB's new Entrepreneurship Academy. Credit: Hadar Borden

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo students will have the chance to explore entrepreneurship and sustainability through two new Undergraduate Academies -- living and learning communities that enable students with common interests to live together and share meaningful experiences throughout their college years.

The Entrepreneurship Academy launched this fall with about 40 freshmen. The Sustainability Academy will enroll its first class in fall 2013. The new academies are an example of initiatives undertaken by UB to benefit students using revenues generated by the NYSUNY 2020 bill, signed into law last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Members of each will enjoy opportunities such as exclusive seminars and networking events, all relating to their academy's central theme. Participants in the Entrepreneurship Academy, for instance, will meet and work with entrepreneurs in Western New York; develop plans for entrepreneurial endeavors; and analyze different styles of entrepreneurship, including social entrepreneurship.

Students who choose sustainability will have access to a similar, broad range of offerings when that academy formally opens.

"This is an exciting new direction," said Kenneth Shockley, the Sustainability Academy's newly named academic director. "Within a large public university, the academies provide the sense of community and common purpose found in thematically-oriented liberal arts colleges: Students have the resources of a major research institution, and the energy and fervor of a much smaller, focused community. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?"

Shockley, an associate professor of philosophy in UB's College of Arts and Sciences, researches topics including ethics and environmental philosophy.

His counterpart in the Entrepreneurship Academy, Academic Director Yong Li, is an associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship in UB's School of Management. Among other topics, Li studies how venture capitalists make investment decisions under uncertain market conditions.

Each of the two new academies builds on themes that UB and its students have increasingly emphasized in recent years.

The Entrepreneurship Academy complements programs such as the Western New York Prosperity Scholarship, which acquaints students with careers and industries in the region, and the annual Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition for student innovators.

UB's recent investments in sustainability include opening a solar array and new green buildings in 2012, and establishing an Office of Sustainability in 2011 to provide leadership for initiatives like a campus-wide assessment of performance in sustainability. Like the Office of Sustainability, the Sustainability Academy will focus not only on traditional environmental concerns, but on social equity and economic progress as well.

The two Undergraduate Academies bring the total number at UB to five. The other three, all launched since 2007, focus on Civic Engagement, Global Perspectives and Research Exploration.

Together, the academies will serve about 560 students this year, with the number rising in 2013 after the Sustainability Academy launches, said Hadar Borden, the academies' administrative director.

"The formation of the Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Academies continues the strong momentum of the UB Undergraduate Academies in providing unique learning communities to students from a multitude of disciplines," said UB Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education A. Scott Weber. "Each of the five Undergraduate Academies is thematically based around core values in our undergraduate academic experience. They serve as a cauldron for blending unique and diverse concepts into ideas to enhance the future and in doing so, enable UB to attract exceptionally motivated students who want to make a difference."

Each academy accepts students from many different majors. The Entrepreneurship Academy's first cohort includes students majoring not only in management, but also in arts, sciences, engineering and health sciences, Li said.

"That's exactly what we want," he said. "Our Academy serves as a catalyst to inspire and educate the next generation of entrepreneurs, and students from any background can be entrepreneurial. I'm passionate about entrepreneurship, and I believe one of the ways to revitalize the economy in this area is through entrepreneurship."

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