Cal Poly Business Students Prepare to Study Away in Silicon Valley

Cal Poly business students will help pilot the university’s Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs program in winter 2015. The program will give 17 Cal Poly students the opportunity to study away in Silicon Valley with Draper University as part of a universitywide effort to bolster entrepreneurial resources for students across campus.

Ten Orfalea College of Business students will participate in the program – the largest contingent from any college at Cal Poly.  Business majors, along with art, political science, computer science and kinesiology students, will spend three weeks at Cal Poly before studying at Draper University for the remaining seven weeks of winter quarter.

“I’m proud to see so many business students leading the way in this program,” said Orfalea College of Business Dean Scott Dawson. “We’re preparing graduates to make an impact on day one of their careers, and when it comes to entrepreneurship, I can’t think of a better training ground than this program.”

Orfalea College of Business professors Tom Katona and Tod Nelson will teach entrepreneurship courses complemented by business ethics curriculum taught by Cal Poly philosophy professor Kenneth Brown. Katona, Nelson and Brown will visit Silicon Valley periodically to work with students in and out of the classroom. Students will also have the chance to engage with Cal Poly alumni and guest speakers from the valley’s startups and venture capital firms.

“This is much more than just an academic experience for our students,” said Katona of the program. “This is an immersive experience into the entrepreneurial culture that is thriving in Silicon Valley and driving business globally.”

Orfalea College of Business students studying industrial technology, finance, entrepreneurship and economics will participate in the program. The cohort includes Katie White, a business administration freshman and winner of the Audience Choice Award at the 2014 Ray Scherr Pitch Competition. Entrepreneurship sophomore Nicholas Sinai will also participate in the program. He was named University Innovation Fellow by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) in 2014. Alfredo Espinoza, business administration freshman and a member of the Cal Poly Wrestling Team, will also be part of the cohort.

The Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs program is a partnership between Draper University and Cal Poly that aims to amplify the Learn by Doing philosophy. As part of the Cal Poly’s larger effort to build innovative curriculum and programs, the university and its Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship have developed a spectrum of resources for students to develop and sharpen new products, create startups, and collaborate across disciplines while working toward their degree. Those resources include the SLO HotHouse, the on-campus Hatchery and the Innovation Sandbox.

Draper University was founded by venture capitalist Tim Draper to “teach entrepreneurship to people who are relentless in their desire to change the world and make things happen.” Draper is the founder and managing director of Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The company — with more than $7 billion in capital commitments and affiliate offices in more than 30 cities worldwide — has funded many well-known technology companies, including Hotmail, Skype, SpaceX and Tesla Motors.

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