UMD’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation program is closing down

La Plata Hall, where students in EIP live together to ensure what the program’s webpage called “the free-flow sharing of ideas.” (Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback)

The University of Maryland’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, a living-learning program within the Honors College, is set to end in 2021 because it’s no longer financially viable.

The EIP was founded in 2010 as a partnership between the Honors College and the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute. Mtech, as the latter is often called, is a tech incubator within the engineering school — and it was responsible for keeping the EIP funded.

William Cohen, an associate provost and the dean for undergraduate studies, said that the EIP was funded like a startup would have been, matching the business ethos of its sponsoring entity. 

“In the entrepreneurial world, startup funds are a great thing to get something launched. But in the academic world, that is not always so viable, because startup funds only get you so far,” he said. “And then you kind of run out.”

Mtech, as a self-funded entity, was not able to keep up with the program’s rising costs, Cohen said. And attempts to find a different sponsor for the EIP were unsuccessful. 

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When the two-year program launched, it was described as “a cornerstone initiative” to raise the university’s profile, “particularly in the entrepreneurship and innovation arenas,” on the EIP webpage at the time. It was targeted towards “entrepreneurially-minded” students, it read.

To this end, the university offered several EIP-exclusive courses. They culminated in a capstone project in which sophomores would develop a plan for a business that was both profitable and incur some kind of benefit for society. 

There was even a Shark Tank-like competition, Terp Tank, in which students could present those business plans to a panel of judges for a chance at cash. All the while, students in EIP would live together in La Plata Hall to ensure what the program’s webpage called “the free-flow sharing of ideas.”

While new students are not being accepted to the living-learning program, the university is committed to supporting EIP students until the last cohort finishes in the spring of 2021.

EIP did “great things,” Cohen said, touting the accomplishments of students in the program. 

Students interested in entrepreneurship, unlike when the EIP was started, now have many options to explore on campus, he added. They can minor in entrepreneurship, use the campus’ 3D printing suite or even live in the nearby “startup village” where some students and alumni pursue business opportunities full-time. 

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Vasmi Patelm, a sophomore finance major, said she met many of her best friends within the EIP. She was sad to see the program winding down.

“It really is upsetting that like new students can’t come and join this program,” she said. “It’s really fun having your friends living right next to you and having that really small-knit community type of vibe on this larger campus.” 

Patelm said she hoped that students would continue to seek out other entrepreneurship programs on campus, like Hinman CEOs, a non-honors living-learning program focused on “experiential learning.” 

EIP director Jay Smith said the program he led played an integral part in the university’s ability to rank among the best schools for entrepreneurship. The Princeton Review places this university in its 2019 list of top ten “Schools for Entrepreneurship Studies.”

Leading the EIP was one of “the favorite things I’ve done in my career,” Smith said. “I’m sorry to see it close down.” 

“We’ve had a very good run with what we’ve done,” he said. “We’ve given [our students] a great foundation for their future careers and their lives.”

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