New IT&E Course Lets Students Compete for Cash

Posted: August 9, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Taking college courses is not an inexpensive undertaking these days, so when a course promises students a chance to win back some of their hard-earned money, they take notice. In a new course offered this fall through the School of Information Technology and Engineering (IT&E), entrepreneurs not only have the opportunity to develop and strategize their business ideas, they also have a shot at winning $5,000, provided by IT&E, which can be used to get that business started.

The course, IT 499 From Geeks to Gazillionaires: Turning Ideas into Successful Companies, will meet Monday evenings at the iMC Corporation headquarters in Reston in a “Donald Trump-esque boardroom setting,” says Don Gantz, chair of the new Department of Applied Information Technology. “We are very excited about this course, for it gives Mason students an opportunity to work with local premier businessmen and learn from their real-world experience.”

Teaching the course are George Newstrom, CEO and president of WiSPER Technologies and former secretary of technology for Virginia; Sudhakar Shenoy, CEO of iMC Corporation and a member of Mason’s Board of Visitors; Suresh Shenoy, executive vice president of iMC Corporation; and Skip West, president of MAXSA Innovations. The four are volunteering their time to lead the class, which will be divided into teams. Each week, the teams will have a different assignment related to a different angle of entrepreneurship, such as marketing, finance, people and organizations, and exit strategies, and they will look at case studies from successful start-ups. At the end of the course, the teams will present their overall business plan to the CEOs, and the most successful team will win the cash.

The prize money, however, is not the most valuable benefit students receive from the course. They will learn how to implement the tasks required to get a business idea up and running, a skill that will be forever useful in their careers. In addition, students will have the opportunity to ask questions, learn from already successful business owners, and read textbooks such as Jack Welsh’s best-seller Winning.

“We have a neat course, and it should be a blast,” says West. “How many courses let you walk away with $5,000 and teach you a ton in the process? Personally, I love teaching, and I want to share the joys and challenges of starting and running a business.”

Lloyd Griffiths, dean of IT&E, says, “This course epitomizes the strengths and flexibility of our programs and our exceptional relationships with the local business community. Our students are fortunate to be able to take advantage of a course taught by outstanding business leaders who are willing to share their expertise in building successful companies. I am most pleased by their commitment to our school.”

Thirty spaces are available in the class for Mason students with senior, graduate, or nondegree status. The course is also open to non-Mason students. However, enrollment is competitive, and prospective students must do a little work for a spot in the class. To apply, they must e-mail Gantz a one-page, double-spaced statement discussing why they want to take the course. Timely applications are encouraged.

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