By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—For most incoming freshmen, college can be a new world, full of big challenges to go along with big rewards.
For Dakota Russell of Floyds Knobs, Ind., it’s all rewards.
Russell is entering her freshman year with 24 credits and a full year of in-class and online experience.
She got a head start by participating in the collaborative certificate program in entrepreneurship offered by IU Southeast and Purdue Polytechnic University/New Albany.
By completing a five-course sequence offered at both campuses, she became the first student to earn the certificate in entrepreneurship.
It was presented to her by David Eplion, dean of the School of Business, at her graduation ceremony at Floyd Central High School.
The certificate is open to anyone, with the intention that everyone from small business owners and other community members—high school students included—will sign up to gain needed expertise in areas that can help them succeed.
The program delivers a foundational introduction to entrepreneurship theory alongside practical applications with a core of required courses and a supporting knowledge set that provides students with the chance to expand their business experience and craft a capstone from either IU Southeast subjects ranging from personal finance and business law to advertising and ethics, or Purdue offerings in ideation, development and testing toward product launch.
The program was a perfect fit for Russell.
As a junior, she found herself in a situation familiar to many. She had already completed most if not all of the courses required for graduation from high school, and was faced with the prospect of a senior year of half-days consisting mainly of electives while she ticked off the months until graduation and a sudden immersion into college.
Instead, she decided to fast-forward to college life at IU Southeast.
Beginning in the summer of 2017, Russell took courses for the certificate at IU Southeast to complement her remaining high school courses, earning college credits and gaining experience in college-level work, expectations and social life.
Her schedule included a 200-level course in contemporary entrepreneurship, followed by 300-level courses in new venture creation, marketing and principles of management. To broaden her horizons, she also took beginning guitar, introductory psychology and photography. She finished her certificate with a 3.7 GPA.
For Russell, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.
Among the challenges: managing the greater volume and pace of work, navigating group and online class structures, and developing the organizational skills and self-discipline necessary to accomplish assignments.
Oh, and mastering Canvas.
Among the pleasant surprises: faculty who cared and took time to address learning differences (contrary to urban legends she had heard about indifferent instructors and sink-or-swim policies), constant encouragement from older students, and a lack of social drama.
For Russell, it was the culture of independence, freedom of thought and mutual respect of university life that has had the greatest impact.
While her studies at IU Southeast did take her away from high school for two afternoons each week, her teachers there noticed an improvement in the quality of her work, and in her confidence.
This came as no surprise to Russell.
“I didn’t say ‘um’ at all in my final oral reports, because by that time I had already given six college presentations,” Russell said.
Now she has completed Orientation with her cohort, and looks forward to her freshman year without the usual jitters, thanks to the certificate program.
“Ms. Russell is the epitome of a ‘with-it’ student,” said Chancellor Dr. Ray Wallace. “With nearly one year of college courses already completed, with a little more planning with her academic advisor, she could enroll later in a one year Masters in Management and have all completed in the usual four years. Smart, very smart!”