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UR's TEAM program built on collaboration

Rochester Business Journal
January 17, 2014

When Sharon Samjitsingh was looking at graduate schools, she was intrigued by a new program offered at the University of Rochester.

The master of science degree in technical entrepreneurship and management, called TEAM, was introduced at the university in 2009.

Samjitsingh, who had been working as a chemical engineer for some 19 years before enrolling in the master’s program, said it was exactly what she was looking for in a graduate degree program.

The program helped Samjitsingh gain a better understanding of business management while enhancing her engineering skills.

The degree was not the only thing Samjitsingh obtained. She also landed a job as project manager at Rochester-based Sweetwater Energy Inc.

“When you speak only technology to businesspeople, they don’t listen to you,” she said. “This (program) helped give me a language they understand while not giving up my technical skills.”

The one-year TEAM master of science program is offered jointly by the Simon Business School and the Edmund A. Hajim School of Engineering. It is administered by the University of Rochester Center for Entrepreneurship.

It is designed for students with an undergraduate degree in engineering, science or mathematics who wish to pursue a master’s-level technical education in combination with business, entrepreneurial management and leadership courses.

Duncan Moore, vice provost for entrepreneurship at the UR, said the graduate degree is intended for students thinking about how they can take ideas developed at universities and turn them into viable products in the marketplace. That can be particularly challenging for engineers, said Moore, who has a Ph.D. in optics and is the founder and former president of Gradient Lens Corp.

Engineers like the precision of the work, but when it comes to marketing a product, there are more unknowns and room for error, he said.

“How comfortable are they making a decision with incomplete data, or how comfortable are they changing direction when the data comes in?” Moore asked. “That can be trickier.”

Students accepted into the TEAM program may choose any technical cluster, such as optics, energy and the environment, computer science, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, or mechanical engineering.

Andrea Galati, executive director of the TEAM program, said 67 students have graduated from it since its inception three years ago. There have been small waiting lists in the past, with roughly 25 students each session.

Degree requirements include three core entrepreneurship management courses, three technical elective courses, one semesterlong practicum and a written business plan and oral presentation.

While some graduates have used the degree to help with entrepreneurial endeavors, many others have gone on to positions with startups, early-stage companies or even Fortune 500 companies.

They are working as energy engineers, optical design engineers, process engineers, software engineers, project analysts, systems integration consultants, associate license managers and business analysts.

Moore said the program grew from one the university participated in with the University of Texas a few years ago. It has since been tweaked and improved upon and draws students from around the globe.

Roughly one-third of students enrolled are from China, another one-third live in the United States and the remaining one-third are from other countries, such as Sri Lanka and Nepal.

The TEAM program has been such a successful collaboration between the engineering and businesses schools that the university is seeking state approval for a similar graduate degree program involving Simon Business School and the University of Rochester Medical Center, Moore said.

Another benefit of the program, he noted, is the impact it can have on keeping graduates in the area. That was the case with Samjitsingh.

Formerly from Trinidad, she now calls Rochester her home.

She enjoys the openness of people in the community, something she first experienced as a graduate student when local entrepreneurs would speak about their successes and failures to the class.

She also turned her experiences during the degree program into award-winning ideas.

Samjitsingh won first place in the health care category of the seventh annual University of Rochester Mark Ain Business Model Competition last May. Her project involved building a business plan for an asthma monitor.

“There is an openness and willingness to share here that I haven’t experienced in any other city,” Samjitsingh said.

The application deadline for the TEAM class of 2014-15 is Feb. 1. Merit-based scholarships are available. More info can be found at www.rochester.edu/team.

1/17/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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