While most high school students are seated in a classroom listening to a teacher lecture, Governor’s students are writing business plans, receiving feedback from successful entrepreneurs, and launching new businesses on campus.
This fall and winter, twenty-four students are participating in an entrepreneurship seminar as part of the Visiting Professional Seminar Series. Now in its third year, the Visiting Professional Seminar Series was funded by a generous gift from a Governor's family. Govs students are enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn from experts in unique fields of study, and to investigate issues of local, national, and global interest.
Michael Stonebraker ‘61, a computer science professor at MIT, is instructing the entrepreneurship seminar. Among Stonebraker’s long list of impressive accomplishments is his Turing Award, an esteemed award for major contributions of lasting importance to computing, which he received in 2014. Stonebraker won the Turing Award for his fundamental contributions to the concepts and practices underlying modern database systems.
As is a goal of all Visiting Professional Seminars offered at Govs, the entrepreneurship seminar connects students with accomplished professionals, like Stonebraker, and deepens their fluency in the Seven Essential Skills.
“The entrepreneurship class has granted me opportunities far beyond the classroom. I’ve created my own business on campus, I’ve listened to businessmen and women and an accomplished teacher who specializes in entrepreneurial studies. I have learned so much in only a matter of months; this growth has sparked a new passion and maybe even a potential career path,” said Louisa ‘20.
Co-teaching the entrepreneurship class with Stonebraker is Kathy Huber, an entrepreneur, startup founder and advisor, investor, computer network specialist, and philanthropist. Huber is a mentor with MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service and the Sandbox Innovation Fund. Rounding out the teaching team are teaching assistants Sandy Schussel, Governor’s science teacher Jennifer Storer P’20, ‘22, and Stacey Griffin P’16, ‘20 (both MIT Sloan School of Management graduates).
Entrepreneurship seminar students have been working in and out of class, in teams of four, to create and launch small businesses. Stonebraker challenged each student business to generate $1,000 in gross sales. This fall, each of the six teams had to generate an idea, refine it into a pitch for startup capital, and then pitch Head of School Dr. Peter Quimby for seed capital as if he were a venture capitalist. By late January, each company hopes to have generated generated $1,000 in profits, sales over and above their expenses and startup capital invested by the Academy. To teach students about investments and loans, the Academy has requested 2% interest, uncompounded, on each of its investments.
Students created the following companies based on perceived need in the Govs community:
● Cura -- gift baskets available for purchase for students
● Study Snacks -- soda and snack food sales and delivery
● Lightning Services -- student dorm room cleaning
● Byfield Brews -- cold brew coffee sales and delivery
● Mercury -- flavored protein shake sales and delivery
● Govs Gifts -- customized welcome signs (holiday-themed)
Students may keep profits, though one company, Govs Gifts, plans to donate any profit they make to a local charity.
Students have found the class model to be beneficial in getting real world experience. Scotch ‘20 says, “Every week we have a two-hour seminar taught by real entrepreneurs in the tech industry. During the week we get real experience selling our product (cold brew coffee) in the dining hall during free blocks. It's been a master class on managing orders and demand, choosing fair prices, building our brand image, and getting our message out-- everything we'd be doing with an actual start-up.”
Another Visiting Professional Series seminar this semester was the Musical Theater Workshop. Broadway actor Allison Case, with lead roles in "Hair," "Mamma Mia," and "Hands on a Hardbody" among other credits, taught ten students in a six-week workshop. With a Broadway tune of their choice, each student prepared and rehearsed a 32-bar cut that they may use for an audition. In the final session, they sang for an audience.
Last year there were two seminars in the Visiting Professional Seminar Series: one on historic preservation and one on social justice. The historic preservation seminar, “If These Walls Could Talk: Historic Preservation Case Study” was led by Bethany Groff Dorau, the North Shore Regional Site Manager for Historic New England. The seminar examined the historic preservation of Atwell House, an eighteenth-century house on the Academy’s campus which underwent renovations this past year.
Also last year, students took part in a seminar focused on social justice. The seminar, “Social Justice and Political Activism in Society,” was led by Janette Carson, a greater Boston-area activist and organizer. The seminar explored the injustices faced by those with fewer privileges. Engaging in past and present case studies of injustice to marginalized people, students learned about the need for advocacy and activism to remedy such injustices.
Other Visiting Professional Seminar Series have included: The Graphic Novel, Water Wars, Documentary Filmmaking, and The Amazon Effect.
To contact a team to help them reach their $1,000 goal, please contact Bill Quigley, Interim Academic Dean.