Innovation and Entrepreneurship

When introducing the iPad, Steve Jobs said " “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”

Grinnellians are experts at marrying the liberal arts with technology, medicine, business, and anything else that catches their attention.

While many Grinnellians go on to earn higher degrees in fields they love — proportionally, Grinnell ranks in the top 10 among all U.S. institutions at producing Ph.D.s. — others are busy creating brand new fields.

The same practices that make liberal arts majors marketable in an ever-changing world — critical thinking, examination of life, encounters with difference, and free exchange of ideas — are perfect for the entrepreneurs driving that change.  A quick search on LinkedIn reveals hundreds of Grinnellians who founded, own, or run businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations. 

“Entrepreneurship and the liberal arts are both about ideas. Entrepreneurship isn’t about tools or techniques. It’s really about asking, ‘Does this idea make sense?’” explains Mark Montgomery, Donald L. Wilson Professor of Enterprise and Leadership and professor of economics.

Tools and techniques can be learned as needed, but critical thinking, the heart of a liberal arts education, needs cultivation. “Ultimately, tools aren’t going to help you create something new. The liberal arts teach you how to think about the world in a different way,” he adds.

The Wilson Program helps students apply their liberal arts education to the theory and practice of innovation, enterprise, and leadership in the business, government, and nonprofit sectors.  It supports a huge number of internships as well as courses on innovation and entrepreneurship and short courses taught by successful alumni who share their real world experiences and lessons.

The program is expanding, says Montgomery, and his goal is to make it the best small college program in the country. 

Read more about Grinnell innovators and entrepreneurs in The Grinnell Magazine Fall 2012, including:

  • Robert Noyce ’49, the “mayor of Silicon Valley,” who co-invented the integrated circuit and co-founded Intel, as well as mentoring many key Silicon Valley entrepreneurs including Steve Jobs
  • Joel Spiegel ’78, whose work with Amazon changed the landscape of the online marketplace
  • James H. Lowry ’61, a diversity expert who transformed business’s way of viewing, embracing, and leveraging diversity
  • Kevin Schmidt ’91, co-founder of the first mental health cooperative in the country
  • Hilary Mason ’00, chief scientist at bitly and a leader in the new discipline of data science
Leonid
Leonya Ivanov can be reached at ivanovl@grinnell.edu.