The terms “incubation” and “acceleration” took on new meanings for Mays Business School students enrolled this semester in Management 489: Incubator Development. Nearly all of the undergraduates in this one-time course had never visited a business incubator or accelerator prior to registering for this unique experiential-learning class. MGMT 489 students overcame a steep learning curve by visiting incubation programs in Austin and San Antonio during the spring semester.

Texas A&M University System officials, CNVE advisory board members and other stakeholders toured the program's office space in Research Park.
Texas A&M University System officials, CNVE advisory board members and other stakeholders toured the program’s office space in Research Park. (view more photos)

During their out-of-town and local visits to incubators, MGMT 489 students interviewed incubator managers and community leaders with experience in economic development. As students learned more about the business incubation industry, the incubator research project evolved—making for quite a challenge near the end of the semester as MGMT 489 students became more involved with their sister class in the College of Architecture. ARCH 485 students produced space plans and custom furniture designs for a proposed “student startup space” at Texas A&M University’s Research Park, based on end-user needs articulated by MGMT 489 students.

Both teams of students revised their course deliverables several times to incorporate new data as it was developed and shared. For MGMT 489 students, this meant working to rewrite their business plan for a campus incubation program to assist student entrepreneurs. In response, ARCH 485 students had to “redesign the redesign of their redesigned architectural design plans,” as one senior noted. Students in both classes agreed that the process was like launching a startup business because collaboration between students was required to produce a cohesive, feasible product.

At the end of the semester, both classes presented their proposals to Jeffrey Seemann, vice president of research at Texas A&M University and chief research officer for the Texas A&M University System, during a stakeholders presentation that included Jorge Vanegas, dean of the College of Architecture, and other university and Texas A&M University System officials. An estimated 70 guests, including Richard Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, and CNVE advisory board members, convened to hear students’ presentations and participate in tours of the student business incubation program facility.

This 4,704-square-foot office space, dubbed “The Startup Space” by students, served as the campus classroom for MGMT 489 students. A Phase II course, “MGMT 489: Incubator Implementation,” will be offered to a small group of undergraduate at Mays in the same space during the first summer 2012 semester.