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Columbia Entrepreneurs Get the EDGE in Scotland

Columbia Students arrive in Scotland to take part in the EDGE program. From left to right: Ekaterina (Katia) Topilina; Blair Bodine; Stephanie Colley; Patrick Cushing; Philip Li; Shaun Martinak; Joshua Schachter; Brandon Arbiter; Raphael Mannino; Hubert Lin; and Clara Kim.

In the fall, when the reality TV season bombards viewers with new episodes, Donald Trump and his "apprentices" may find some stiff competition from Columbia's EDGE Entrepreneurs.

In mid-June, a group of undergraduates from Columbia College, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of General Studies traveled to Scotland for an eight-week program joining students from the University of Glasgow and Dunbartonshire high schools to sharpen their entrepreneurial skills through EDGE--Encouraging Dynamic Global Entrepreneurs. The students will spend six weeks working in teams as business development consultancy firms, helping businesses in Dunbartonshire develop strategies and plans for growth and development. The teams also have access to local industry experts.

The EDGE program was officially launched at a reception held at the University of Glasgow, attended by the students, businesses and their guests on June 19. Tom McCabe, minister for finance and public services reform, and Jack Perry, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, addressed the audience to officially mark the beginning of EDGE.

"Students participating in EDGE will have the unique opportunity to combine classroom learning with opportunities of work experience," explains Christopher Pratt, dean of the Center for Career Education and one of the creators of the program. "Students will directly apply what they have learned in their consultancy teams, working in real time with real-world business problems for the small and medium-sized enterprise owners in Dunbartonshire, Scotland."

"Columbia's Center for Career Education has built a multifaceted entrepreneurial education program that teaches professional skills through life experiences," says Brandon Arbiter, SEAS'06, who has exhibited his talents in the field by co-founding and managing CU Snacks, the online late-night delivery service on campus. "Columbia students will be working directly with Scottish government and business people to achieve the goal of strengthening the economy through empowering enterprise. Finding great results working with other career education entrepreneurial initiatives, such as the annual business plan competition and the Student Enterprise program, I am excited to participate in the EDGE Program."

The program begins with two weeks of immersion classes, which are geared toward utilizing an entrepreneurial thought process, focusing on business growth, team building, marketing, research, consultancy, case studies and on how to function as a business consultant. The classes are led by Pratt and his Center for Career Education colleagues Anthony Ives, director of experiential education and student enterprise; Laura Hoffman, director of employer and alumni relations; and Richard Kurz, director of graduate student career development.

"I have developed a tremendous interest in entrepreneurship and business development over the past years," says program member Stephanie Colley, CC'06. "I hope to gain knowledge in how other businesses are run, and I hope to learn from the challenges that they face in their development."

One team is researching how a company with a device to lubricate motorcycle engines can enter the U.S. market. Another is conducting market research in China for a Scottish ship consultancy firm that dismantles old vessels to sell scrap metal and other parts. Other teams are determining the feasibility for a hotel expansion, create a strategy for generating new business for two restaurants within a local hotel and offer productivity improvements through new technology for a manufacturing company. The participating businesses all have viable business plans, which have been vetted through Scottish Enterprise, an economic development organization working with EDGE.

"To me, the EDGE program offered an experience with much more value than a name-brand internship," says Patrick Cushing, SEAS'06. "I hope to gain a better understanding of business and entrepreneurship so that I might apply what I have learned in business school. Also, I hope to develop myself as someone suited for international business who understands the intricacies of doing business across national borders."

Reflecting on Columbia's role as a global educator, Pratt notes that nearly half of the Columbia students are from countries other than the United States, including Canada, China, Hong Kong, Korea, the Philippines and Russia.

"Learning to share knowledge, experience, insights and to be innovative across borders is a global career education competency that will be required of everyone, and especially of Columbia graduates going forward," says Pratt. "The world looks to Columbia graduates to help solve the emerging problems of a global society."

While the first exchange is underway, Pratt is already looking to the future. In subsequent years, he hopes to expand the program to other areas where the economy may not be as vibrant and where cultural differences may loom larger, such as Eastern Europe, Asia and South America.

"My ultimate goal is to come back to New York City with teams of international students learning together at Columbia while working with high school students and small to medium-sized enterprise owners in Harlem," he says.

As for the current program, Colley says: "This opportunity will be priceless and will give me the chance to present innovative ideas to Scottish businessmen and women. I know that EDGE will have a truly memorable effect on me and will help develop the entrepreneur in me."

Published: Jul 01, 2005
Last modified: Jul 04, 2005

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