Cultural Entrepreneurship is a new major at UMD, approved by the University of Minnesota Board of Regents on June 14. Offered by the College of Liberal Arts starting this fall, it’s the first program of its kind in the United States. “UMD is defining cultural entrepreneurship,” says Dr. Olaf Kuhlke, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
A key component is intercultural competency. Students develop functional communication in two foreign languages and are encouraged to study abroad. “This will give students the key communication skills for a global economy,” explains Dr. Susan Maher, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
This multifaceted approach to learning is purposeful. The Cultural Entrepreneurship program includes courses from all five collegiate units. Broken down, it’s comprised of 1/3 business, 1/3 foreign language, and 1/3 cultural competency.
At its essence, it’s combining the traditional lessons of business schools with the creative thinking that is most often cultivated in the arts. “Students educated in this new program will become cultural entrepreneurs and innovators in the arts, culture, and media industries,” explains Maher.
Examples of career fields where cultural entrepreneurs flourish include marketing, tourism, event management, and advocacy.
Coffee creator Eric Faust (B.A. 2008) is a cultural entrepreneur and a big fan of William Blake. “Blake had abstract ideas, but if you study them, you see that there is an argument there.” Looking at how an abstract idea becomes an argument while studying English at UMD has helped Eric Faust in the development of his idea, Duluth Coffee Company, a new coffee shop in downtown Duluth that hand-roasts coffee beans, ensuring freshness and deliciousness.
While appreciative of the lessons from Blake, Cultural Entrepreneurship is the kind of thing Faust wishes was offered when he was a student at UMD. “This program is extremely needed. Initially I made some mistakes that this degree would have prevented.” Faust is passing along his lessons learned by serving as a member of the Institute for Cultural Entrepreneurship’s Regional Advisory Committee.
Pairing Faust’s experience as a cultural entrepreneur with students is part of the program, which includes mentorship with an entrepreneur.
For Faust, his current field is a bit surprising, “Being an entrepreneur is the last thing I thought I’d do.” His brother actually went to the Carlson School of Management to study marketing and business, but it turned out that he, the English major, took his vision into fruition, opening a successful business.
As Faust’s favorite poet William Blake said, “My business is to create,” which is cultural entrepreneurship at its core.
Story written by Lori C. Melton