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Entrepreneurship and the Liberal Arts

  • © Steve Hambuchen

One of the goals in our new strategic plan might simply be referred to as the practical application of the liberal arts. Learning for learning’s sake is at the core of what we do, but we’re also committed to building integrated cocurricular experiences. Each plays a vital role in preparing our students for the world beyond Lewis & Clark.

Employers and graduate and professional schools seek people who can think critically, work collaboratively, and communicate clearly across disciplines, cultures, and nationalities. These very qualities have long been the outcomes of the education and experiences we provide at Lewis & Clark. A recent survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace confirmed that employers value such skills even more than particular majors.

We must continue to ensure that we give students the skills to be ready for success as soon as they walk across the commencement stage. As part of this effort, we’re making our offerings in career development ever more robust, and we’re building new academic and cocurricular initiatives under the umbrella terms of entrepreneurship and innovation.

This year and last, we conducted seminars over winter break that taught students how entrepreneurs think and act in the world. Now, with a generous gift of $100,000, we’ve launched a venture competition. In this learning opportunity, 42 teams of students and recent alumni from all three schools— more than we ever would have imagined—are competing for training and start-up funds for commercial or social enterprises. And this fall, we will offer our first formal academic course on entrepreneurship. We’ll continue expanding from there.

Our definition of entrepreneurship encompasses more than the act of starting new companies and nonprofits. Our idea of entrepreneurship also includes bringing innovation to each and every workplace—jumpstarting new ideas and collaborating to put them into action. Students who come to Lewis & Clark are aspirational thinkers and doers. They think beyond their present circumstances to imagine—and build—a better world, for themselves and for society.

Earlier this year, Amber Case B.A. ’08, the newest and youngest member of our Board
of Trustees, told our students how she came to Lewis & Clark. She said that she was trying to decide between Caltech and MIT when a professor friend of her mother encouraged her to consider a liberal arts college instead. “He said the world is going to change,” remembers Amber, “and if you don’t understand how to think, you can’t write your own future.”

Amber majored in sociology and anthropology, learned to think in new ways, and hasn’t stopped writing her own future. Having recently given a TED talk, sold her first start-up, and been featured in Forbes and Wired, Amber epitomizes liberal arts entrepreneurship.

As we educate more of our students in entrepreneurship, they will quickly make their own productive paths in the world—like Amber and our many generations of successful alumni.

And they’ll do so in ways that are uniquely Lewis & Clark.


Barry Glassner


The Chronicle Magazine

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