New class, new contest

Lenny Neslin

Quinnipiac University will offer a new course this spring that allows business and communication students to collaboratively create their own financially sustainable venture.

Teams of students will present their entity to the class, an undetermined panel of judges, and have the opportunity to enter state and nationwide business plan competitions.

In his first semester as a full-time faculty member at Quinnipiac, Instructor of Journalism Brett Orzechowski presented the idea of an interdisciplinary course to the School of Business. After coming to terms, he paired with Instructor of Management David Tomczyk to teach Media Innovation Collaborative (MIC Project).

The University is calling JRN300, cross-listed with MG471, a “pilot program” for juniors and seniors.

“All students will share instruction and a voice in the direction of their venture in this interdisciplinary collaborative. However, journalism students will engage primarily in content creation and business students will concentrate on business plan development and marketing,” the University said in an Oct. 19 e-mail.

Junior broadcast journalism student Natalie Sgro completed Orzechowski’s Reporting for the Web (JRN305) last spring, the only prerequisite for journalism students. She intends to register for the new elective next semester.

“I think it would be really good to take a class that trains you to become an entrepreneur in journalism. It’s very innovative and it’s very necessary,” Sgro said. “By having it here at QU, it’s giving our students an edge over other students.”

The business side is focusing on students in the entrepreneurship and small business major or minor, but there are no prerequisites, Tomczyk saod.

“Business plan competitions bring in all types of people,” he said.

There are 12 seats in the course available for journalism students, while the number of business students is predicated on the interest level of the students. Tomczyk expects the class will have approximately the same number of business students as communications.

The Connecticut Collegiate Business Plan Competition, which runs April 13-22, is the main target for students to enter, according to Tomczyk, and offers unrestricted $1,000 grants to top prize winners.

The Quinnipiac-judged competition is still being arranged.

“Our goal is to try to get either local entrepreneurs or preferably alumni; entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors to come and be the judges,” Tomczyk said. “The goal is to involve as much of the outside community as possible to say, ‘Look, our students are brilliant, give us money so we can keep supporting these people.’ That way we can actually have $20,000 in prize money or more.

“It’s great to have professors involved, but to have professors be the judges is not going to give necessarily the same level of feedback as someone who says, ‘Hey I actually invested in 20 different businesses and yours doesn’t make the cut at all.’ That’s really the goal, to try to give the students as much real world experience.”

Tomczyk helped start and run the business plan competition at George Washington University, which became a huge success. Each year the competition received more than 100 applicants and one alumnus donated $30,000 in prize money annually for 10 years.

One MBA student told Tomczyk, “This business plan competition is better than the entire two years I was here.”

If the course is successful at Quinnipiac, Orzechowski anticipates expanding the collaborative course to the College of Arts & Sciences to give students in computer science, interactive digital design and other disciplines a chance to gain hands-on experience.