New student group gives SSU entrepreneurs a home

ROHNERT PARK -- With a hope of attracting and supporting entrepreneurially minded students both inside and outside of the School of Business and Economics, a newly formed "Entrepreneurship Society" at Sonoma State University is among the school's latest efforts to broaden its role in cultivating cross-disciplinary connections between current and future entrepreneurs.

Known more commonly as the "Trep Society," leaders at the business school launched the student group through a formative first cohort in the spring semester. Viewed as "co-curricular" with academic courses concerning entrepreneurship, the effort is expected to evolve significantly in the fall semester through the establishment of retail and co-working space for student entrepreneurs in the university's new Student Center.

[caption id="attachment_74556" align="alignleft" width="180"] Kirsten Ely[/caption]

"We want to say 'What you're being taught here can fuel your entrepreneurship. You can start your business, here, now,'" said Dr. Kirsten Ely, a professor at the business school and faculty-in-residence at the North Bay iHub at Sonoma Mountain Village.

An initial group of 20 students joined the newly formed organization last fall, meeting regularly with regional business leaders at the offices of the North Bay iHub and discussing the most effective format for a group that would attract entrepreneurial students from different disciplines at Sonoma State, Dr. Ely said.  

It would not be the first high-reaching student group developed under the business school. The largest academic club on the campus, the Accounting Forum, is often credited for helping to fuel an employment rate for accounting graduates that administrators say typically tops 90 percent. While different in scope, the Trep Society could also play a significant role in enhancing outcomes for students looking to launch new business ventures.

"Frankly, every time I turn and talk to a student here, I find out they want to have a business, or already do," Dr. Ely said.

Dr. Ely noted that students in disciplines outside of the business school were regularly producing marketable ideas as part of their academic or personal work, like smartphone applications created under the computer science program. In many cases, those students are unaware of the potential for a commercial venture, she said.

"They get stuck into this 'take a class, get a job' mode," she said.

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