Q&A: The Opportunities Brought by Virtualization
Many classes look different this semester, and the CFE’s Entrepreneurship Hour is no exception. The course invites disruptive, influential, and respected entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and business leaders to speak to students about their personal experiences. The virtualization of the course has provided an opportunity to not only change the structure, but also to line up speakers from across the country and globe who may not have been able to attend in person.
We chatted with this semester’s instructor Eric Bacyinski about what students can expect from the course this fall.
The format is different this semester with the addition of co-hosts. What prompted this change, and what do you hope these co-hosts bring to the class?
The inclusion of co-hosts was primarily done to further the course’s goal of maximizing the amount of exposure students have to alumni and their insights. With the shift to a virtual format, we observed and were excited to take advantage of an opportunity to incorporate alumni who live further from Ann Arbor and weren’t able to join us in-person for class; the creation of the co-host role was a perfect way to include them while allowing students to hear from multiple alum each week.
What are some of the benefits of the virtual format this semester vs. an in-person course?
Having a virtual format is a huge opportunity for EHour to expand its ability to include alumni who live across the globe, and who are not as easily able to join a class session in Ann Arbor. In addition to the ‘leveling’ of this engagement for all alumni, the virtual format allows us to incorporate more student questions into the discussion; previously, as soon as class ended students would always gather around the speaker to ask their questions, and now we’re able to bring most of those into the conversation in real-time.
What topics will the class focus on this semester?
We’re making some tweaks from what was previously done here too. CFE’s goal to educate students on engineering-related approaches to some of society’s large-scale evolutions (mobility/transportation, energy/climate-change, defense/cybersecurity, and healthcare) remains a core part of EHour, but we also want to showcase the work of alumni who are working on cultural issues playing out in everyday headlines. To that end, this semester will also hopefully include special sessions on minority perspectives on venture capital, the intersection of entrepreneurship and politics, and the evolving dynamic of the transportation industry between the Bay Area and metro Detroit.
You spent some time living in the Bay Area, did that help you in determining this semester’s topics, speakers, questions, etc?
Undoubtedly. Being on the ground and able to meet alumni, hear their perspectives, concerns, etc., was vital to crafting the semester’s content and to ensure we’re giving a spotlight to what students should know to best prepare for their future.
Why do you think it is important for students, studying any discipline to hear from entrepreneurially-minded leaders from a variety of industries?
Though speakers and co-hosts come from a swath of industries, we intentionally leverage the time with them to focus on the lessons learned on their individual journeys (not those applicable to their particular industry). That being said, the increasingly interconnectedness of industries makes diversity in speaker/co-host backgrounds more than important: it’s vital. Students are preparing to enter a world where the industry they work in is now tied to several others, and there’s no sign of those becoming more distinct. Whether students end up becoming founders, VCs, or take a path toward intrapreneurship inside a large corporation, what they hear in EHour will aid their career.
What do you hope students are able to take away from this semester, and how might it help them in their future careers?
Our hope is that students will take away a more refined sense of the rapidly-evolving industries they are entering, an understanding of how they can maximize their individual entrepreneurial education/experience at U-M, and lastly, a handful of tips, sage advice, and lessons learned from the alum who came before them.