Refreshing a Signature Program

Changes are coming to a quintessential Babson experience.

The Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship course, or FME, immerses all first-year students into the field of business as they launch and run their own ventures. Every year, the sight of FME students selling their products is a ubiquitous part of campus life.

Even successful courses such as FME, however, need refreshing from time to time, says James Hunt, associate professor of management. For the past year, a faculty committee led by Hunt has taken a long look at FME and received feedback from nearly 100 students, alumni, and faculty members. The result of their efforts, a revised FME with adjustments in content, structure, and class size, will be piloted this fall and rolled out to the entire first-year class in 2013.

Illustration: Curtis Parker

Hunt says the main objective of FME, to allow students to experience the business creation process, remains unchanged. "The entrepreneurial learning continues as always," he says. “We’re not fixing something that’s broken. We’re taking a step back and taking a look at how we can make a good program even better.”

Three big changes are coming. One is class size. Currently, an FME class has about 60 students divided into two business teams of 30, which often proves too large. Just trying to get 30 people on the same page, say in terms of scheduling a meeting, can be hard, Hunt says. In the redo, classes will have 40 to 45 students typically split into three or four business teams of 10 to 15 members each, a more manageable number.

A second change will give students more time in the course’s early stages to explore their business ideas. Ideas now are appraised rather quickly, but the revised FME will better resemble the entrepreneurial process in the real world. “In reality, they would mold and shape an idea,” Hunt says. “It would go through a process of experimentation.”

The last change involves the two main subject matters that make up FME: IT and management. IT will be switched out (a course on IT will become a second-year requirement) and replaced by one on organizational behavior. The change was made, in part, because of feedback from students, who asked for help with personnel issues that frequently arise. “Like in any business, it gets down to how people work together,” Hunt says. Among other topics, the organizational behavior component will examine conflict resolution, team building, and working cross-culturally.

Hunt will be teaching the pilot version of the revised FME this fall with Yasuhiro Yamakawa, assistant professor of entrepreneurship. “We’re very excited about this,” Hunt says. “We’re anxious to get started.” —John Crawford