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Sam Dunner is a young man of contrasts. Intrigued by ancient civilizations and cultures—he spent part of his summer on a UBC-led archaeological dig in Sicily and is completing a minor in Classical Studies—he also has a passion for business and the entrepreneurial thinking that drives innovation.

Entering his fourth year at UBC Sauder School of Business, Dunner aspires to start his own business at some point in his future and is part of the first cohort of BCom students enrolled in the new Entrepreneurship option. He chose the path particularly for New Venture Design, the capstone course where students from UBC Sauder, Applied Science and other faculties work in interdisciplinary teams to design a venture, build a prototype and develop the business model required to raise funding and possibly launch the venture.

“You often hear that mantra—‘fail early, fail often,’” Dunner explains. “There’s no better way to do that than in the safe setting of a classroom, where you’re given the space and all the resources you need to try something different.

“Obviously you don’t want to fail. You want to build a product and develop a successful team. But it’s extremely challenging to go out and do that on your summer vacation.”

Today at UBC, robust programming, a connected community of students, teachers, mentors and alumni, and numerous new venture success stories are proving that entrepreneurship can—and should—be taught.

“We’re showing that entrepreneurs aren’t just born like that,” says lecturer Paul Cubbon, who oversees the development of entrepreneurship programming at UBC Sauder and also teaches e@UBC’s flagship Lean LaunchPad Accelerator Program. “Just like anything else, it’s a skill you can learn, practise and then do yourself.

“Students need systems, support and training to test drive their ideas and to be able to fail in the short term so they can learn and succeed beyond the classroom. We cannot guarantee success, but we can greatly improve the odds.”

That means inspiring disruptive thinking (and action) and preparing graduates with the skills needed to create new ventures, work for early stage companies that need help in the rapid growth phase, or serve as change agents to help innovate existing organizations.

“The skill set required to be what we might consider a traditional entrepreneur who starts a new venture is very similar to that of people who are corporate innovators or intrapreneurs,” Cubbon explains.

“Can you deal with high degrees of ambiguity and uncertainty? Can you move fast with scarce resources? Can you wear many hats? Can you frame a problem and bring a systematic approach to solving it?”

Entrepreneurial programming at UBC Sauder began in much the same way as a start-up. The school started small, testing the delivery of for-credit courses in new venture development for business and engineering students, led by Prof. Darren Dahl at the undergraduate level and Prof. Thomas Hellman at the graduate level. Both courses got traction and spawned a number of ventures that validated the learning.

“We were encouraged by some of the examples of student start-ups—businesses like Energy Aware and Recon Instruments— that launched successful commercial enterprises,” Cubbon says. “We said, ‘This is a good thing. How do we systemize it and scale it?’”

Students can now choose from an array of applied and experiential learning opportunities developed around entrepreneurship, innovation or social enterprise.

In addition to New Venture Design— which began with 30 students and this fall has 90 students from across UBC— and its equivalent in the MBA program, Technology Entrepreneurship, UBC Sauder offers the Entrepreneurship option in the BCom program and the Innovation and Entrepreneurship career track in the full-time MBA program. Building on solid conceptual foundations, students in either program learn the economic drivers of innovation and new ventures, financial models, business development, creative thinking and problem solving, and more.

Sauder’s Arc Initiative, meanwhile, gives students and alumni the tools they need to lead workshops and set up internships around the world to support local entrepreneurs. Since launching in South Africa in 2010, Arc has expanded into Ethiopia, Colombia, Cambodia and Rwanda, and recently wrapped a pilot project in Peru.

Sauder Social Entrepreneurship—Kenya empowers Kenyan youth with the tools to start or develop an existing business through a five-week business planning and mentorship course delivered by Sauder students and alumni on the ground in two of Nairobi’s largest slums.

The Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub, the social venture accelerator run by the UBC Sauder Centre for Social Innovation and Impact Investing, provides emerging social entrepreneurs with dynamic shared workspace, expert mentorship and advice, and full-time summer interns that include UBC Sauder MBA students.

The school also launched Entrepreneurship 101 (COMM280), the first course at UBC to make entrepreneurship training available to students from across faculties, in 2013. Six sections of the course will be offered this year to meet demand.

Elizabeth Newton, a business psychologist, entrepreneur and UBC Sauder faculty member who developed and teaches Entrepreneurship 101, says the combination of student skills and experiences in class can be electric.

“Having that diversity of ideas deepens the level of conversation and inspires students to bring their different areas of expertise together in interesting, new ways,” she says.

Newton’s goal with the course, in which students hear from guest speakers from the local entrepreneurial community and develop personal portfolios built around how their own entrepreneurial ventures could unfold, is to ground students in business fundamentals while also teaching them about the need to be agile and to pivot.

“It’s not just about the front-end launch; it’s about the entrepreneurial life cycle,” she explains. “There is no fail-safe recipe book. It’s about being realistic about the journey—from what motivates you, to prototyping and pitching, through funding and founding partners and legal issues.”

Mardonn Chua was a quick study. The then UBC Bachelor of Science student was working in a biomedical lab in New York in the summer of 2013 when he came up with an innovative way to mass-produce adult stem cells, and quickly realized it could accelerate research into cancer and blood disease treatments. He needed a way to bring his product to market.

Chua reached out to Newton that September and soon found himself in her class surrounded by other budding entrepreneurs with a variety of perspectives and approaches to problem-solving. From there, he took his idea to e@UBC’s Lean LaunchPad Accelerator Program. One of the biggest lessons he learned, he says, was to “put himself out there. As an entrepreneur, you have to get used to taking big risks.”

Today, Chua’s business, Extem Bioscience, is temporarily based in San Francisco, one of 12 teams each armed with $100,000 USD in start-up capital and hightech lab space from a biotech accelerator. He and his business partners were given 100 days to take Extem to a point where venture capitalists are convinced to continue funding.

“You need to have a high pain threshold,” says Chua, BSc 2014, of the entrepreneurial life. “You have to face rejection and failure but not be discouraged. The stress gets very high. You work nonstop."

“We took the plunge and learned from our mistakes, and will never make the same mistakes again. Tons of things may go wrong, but you only need one thing to go right.”

When it does, it can change lives and the world of business.

Today, UBC Sauder supports students from across campus in exploring entrepreneurship through various avenues, and is helping shape UBC’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through its role as an educator and facilitator within e@UBC’s network of programs.

This article originally appeared on the Fall 2015 issue of Viewpoints magazine.