Opinion

On entrepreneurship at Macalester and the library remodel

This article is in response to complaints that the Macalester Entrepreneurship Department’s expansion and relocation to the second floor of the library undermines the mission and identity of Macalester as an institution. Macalester’s identity as a liberal arts institution does not change the fact that the application of education, the development of marketable skills and the pursuit of income should not still be central to our higher education. How we turn our skills and knowledge into careers is how we survive—it’s how we feed ourselves and our families, how we protect ourselves against illness and how we secure shelter each month. It is a privileged position to believe that everyone at Macalester should embrace academia for what it is and to learn purely for the sake of learning. That is not to say one should never just learn for the sake of learning. I just find it limiting to confine academia to such traditional values of scholarship, to just reading books and writing papers. As an aspiring academic, I want nothing more than the opportunity and confidence to free my mind and let it come up with something new, something no one has ever thought of before. That involves reading and writing, but it also involves, for me, art, play, puzzles and problem solving. I see Macalester Entrepreneurship’s relocation to the second floor of the library as a chance for us as students to re-evaluate what we consider to be the necessary and sufficient aspects of academia and what we consider to define or destroy a liberal arts education.

I am just your average Macalester student. I chose this school for its high quality academic programs and its lack of Greek life. I love this school because of its rigorous classes, its multifaceted students and its passion for social justice. My interests are as academic as they come: I plan to pursue a PhD so I can one day become a liberal arts professor and continue to surround myself with pure academia. That being said, I have also been involved with the Entrepreneurship program here. I took Kate Ryan Reiling’s class, Intro to Entrepreneurship, and I participated in MacStartups last summer. I found these two experiences to be the most multidisciplinary components of my Macalester education. I argue that Macalester is still a liberal arts college to its core despite the fact that it also offers various programs where students can learn to apply their education to the real world. I even argue that the existence of programs such as the Entrepreneurship Program and the Institute of Global Citizenship makes Macalester a stronger liberal arts institution.

There are three main reasons why I am in support of the Entrepreneurship department’s expansion and relocation to the second floor of the library:

Macalester is a small bubble that breeds big ideas and extremely creative solutions. I want those ideas to be central to campus, to connect students with one another and to find their way beyond the Macalester bubble. The centralization and heightened involvement of Mac Entrepreneurship faculty can help this happen.

I am not okay with the dominance of cis-white males as leaders of our society, nor their extreme over-representation in the business world. Although I cannot speak for other marginalized people, as a woman, I want more access to the tools that will teach me the skills I need to be a strong business leader and a confident independent thinker. As a result, someday there will be one more female CEO, one more CEO educated by Macalester College and most importantly, one more corporately responsible CEO. Our economic system is what we, as citizens, make it, and while it’s difficult to completely restructure the system, we can infiltrate it and influence it in a way that better serves the less advantaged, and the environment and the general common good.

I want access to new software and hardware to create graphics, projects and presentations for my classes. I also want the freedom to use that software, instead, to Photoshop my friends into various situations for their custom birthday cards if I so choose. The freedom to use valuable resources for any conceivable purpose is hard to come by. It opens up so many possibilities for experimentation, enjoyment and education.

The Macalester Entrepreneurship Department is not an extension of the economics and computer science departments. It does not favor students from STEM backgrounds. It coexists with Macalester’s academic programs, and it is a tool for students in any subject. I am for the expansion of the Entrepreneurship Department because I think it adds value to the community and it exists without taking away our opportunity, as students, to study what we want and allocate our time as we choose.

There have been concerns regarding the Entrepreneurship Program’s inherent perpetuation of the capitalist system. My response to this is that, for better or for worse, we live in a society founded in capitalist values. I understand that many students at Macalester are of the opinion that Macalester, as an institution, should oppose capitalism due to its harmful effects on disadvantaged people. While I do appreciate the desire to defend this principle, I think it’s important to recognize that Macalester itself is a product of the capitalist system. Each and every one of us, as students here, has benefitted from capitalism. If it weren’t for capitalism, we would not have had this opportunity to come to Macalester and study the flaws of capitalism. There has been no example of a perfect economic system in history, especially for a country as large and diverse as the United States. In fact, in history, non-capitalist economic systems have also led to horrible oppression.

I challenge anyone who opposes this article to further investigate the motives of the Macalester Entrepreneurship Program. I challenge you to broaden your definition of the word entrepreneurship. Macalester teaches entrepreneurship not as the pursuit of profit, but as the solving of problems in society. It teaches principles of creativity and innovation that are necessary in any society, regardless of the economic system in place. Allocating basic human needs and desires to the world population is not a simple task. Capitalism is not perfect, but through entrepreneurship, it does leave room for passionate citizens to step in and improve some aspect of society.

This is Macalester College’s mission statement: “Macalester is committed to being a preeminent liberal arts college with an educational program known for its high standards for scholarship and its special emphasis on internationalism, multiculturalism, and service to society.” As a student of Macalester, I ask myself, What good is a liberal arts education if we don’t use it to serve ourselves and the society around us?

April 28, 2017

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