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The University of North Carolina’s Entrepreneurial Internship Program
The entrepreneurship program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers students a new and innovative look into the realm of small startup businesses. In its creation three years ago, this program allows students a chance to take a series of lectures and participate in a summer internship program. The internship can be completed within the United States or abroad, depending on the preference of the student.
The program now boasts over 100 students and has featured guest entrepreneurial speakers such as Ted Turner, Alexander Julian, and Jeffrey Saches. The knowledge and insight gained within these lectures have inspired UNC students to start their own business. For example, one senior studying economics has completely paid for his new sports car through a company that sells advertising space on exotic cars. Also, one student has created his business which focuses on turning landfill gases into reusable energy. To further the scope of the program, the department has expanded the fields which the students may study. After a basic economics course, the students are allowed to choose the tracks of commercial, scientific, or philanthropic entrepreneurship. Each of these tracks is taught by individuals that have shown great success in each their perspective fields.
The scientific field of the program is instructed by two of the most notable scientist at UNC. Lowry Caudill and Holden Thorpe put their minds together to lead a class of no more than 10 students in their scientific endeavors. Holden, the founder and CEO of Xanthon, applies his knowledge from his business and the lessons he learned along the way. From this experience, Holden has led as advisors to many other companies and now serves as the University’s Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. On the other side of the spectrum, Lowry Caudill, the former founder of Magellan Labs shares his insights on how his companies made millions during their time in the pharmaceutical world. Together with their experience, the students have gained a great deal of knowledge that they will apply in the real world.
Along with the lectures, students are required to combine minds with other students in the class to create and defend unique business proposals. Taking all semester, each of the group goes through all the steps that are required to start their own business, from the markets to the venture funding. At the end of the semester, each group presents their plans to a panel of venture capitalists in hopes of winning start up money. After their classes are over, the students then enter into the real world where they are required to spend 8 weeks with an entrepreneurial company.
Many of the students remain in the United States for their internships, however, nearly 30 students travel to China each summer. In China, each student is paired with a business that they must work with for 40 hour week while keeping journals. Students in the foreign internships gain a new understanding on how the economies and markets of different countries affect those in the United States. While they are housed at a university dorm in Bejing, the students are encouraged to partake in the local rituals and live as any businessperson living in China would. They are submerged into their culture so they will get the full experience in another country.
Students who choose to remain in the United States share similar experiences in the high paced American lifestyle of small business. Most of the students are paired with small companies of their choosing and asked to work with them for the required 8 weeks, though many stay for longer or are even hired for the remainder of their time in college. While keeping their blogs or journals, the students are asked to reflect weekly on their experiences and to conduct interviews with each employee of the company. After the completion of their internships, the students are asked to complete a reflection course in the following semester. During this semester, the students create a case study where they focus on the problems or triumphs experienced so they may share them with other students or classes. The creation of this case study is the ultimate reflection for their summer experience, as they are articulating all the lessons that they learned.
It is safe to say that this program offers students a once and a lifetime opportunity that very few students in the United States have the chance to experience. From the excellent professors, leaders, speakers, and companies that help this program, everything is executed to perfection so the program is the best in the country. By providing first hand experience, these young entrepreneurs are finding out exactly what it takes to start their dream business. So whether if the program is inspiring students for great success, or diverting them from failure of sloth, this program is helping hundreds of UNC students determine their futures.