BY EBELE ORAKPO
Professor Linus Osuagwu is the Dean, School of Business and Entrepreneurship at the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola, Adamawa State. The professor of marketing in this chat with Financial Vanguard says Entrepreneurship is a culture and a way of life for AUN community. Excerpts:
“Entrepreneurship is a way of life for our students, faculty and administration. We think there are many opportunities around us; that is one thing, but another thing is realising these opportunities and exploiting them beneficially.
The point is that if we think entrepreneurship is linked with opportunities, it means we have to design ways to understand those opportunities and exploit them. That is essentially what we teach our students and that is what we practice.
The average student here takes two courses in entrepreneurship – Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship Management. When any student comes into AUN, we welcome him/her with basics of entrepreneurship and then go on to Entrepreneurship Management where we teach them business plans because the student must establish a business using the business plan he developed in the class.
It is compulsory no matter the programme – whether it is software engineering, economics, marketing or international and comparative politics, the student must do two compulsory entrepreneurship courses,” said Osuagwu.
Marrying town & gown: It is a truism that any university that does not impact its community and nation positively is not worth its salt. As a result, Osuagwu stated that the university exposes the students to the principles and practice of entrepreneurship and then send them to the communities where they identify opportunities and needs and work towards meeting the needs. “They also teach small business owners in the communities how to run their businesses efficiently and effectively.
“We expose students to modern principles of entrepreneurship using the best of tools. The student must establish a business using the business plan he has developed in class.
They go to the communities where they see a lot of opportunities and those businesses can spring from anything like the challenges in the communities – could be water, lack of schools etc.
Each student must actualise the business in his business plan so there is this link between the principles we teach in the school and the practical realities outside which we want the student to connect by himself.
It is not just documenting business plans or feasibility studies; we want him to actualise them by being committed whether in terms of time, money or both and if need be, the university can help in its own way to make sure that these businesses become effective,” he said.
We allow our students to choose any business they want. “If for example we have a class of approximately 30 students taking a course, by the time we sift the business plans, we can come to something like 10, we sift it further may be to five.
There are students that want to do what we call Be Natural; there are people, especially ladies that want to beautify themselves and instead of spending thousands of naira, they set up facilities around here, you know these students are modern people, they know the kind of tools to use and they know how a lady should look.
For doing that, they make money for themselves as well as satisfy the requirement for the course. One of our students is dealing in shea butter.
He had experience before coming here and we encouraged him to start the business because in the communities, the raw materials for the business he wants to start are everywhere so when he told us, we asked him to go and explore the feasibility of that and when we were sure of that, we asked him to start the business and he has started already in Yola.
There was also Nature to Nature, ie students making manure for agricultural purposes. They are ongoing now. Trading, is a given here. The average student on campus engages in sophisticated trading, some of them online and payment system here is easy, it is electronic.
They are many but they have to defend before us the feasibility of these businesses and move them to the level of business plan. It is actually the business plans that we critically examine to okay them and the students can take it from there.
For a student to pass this course, he must start a business either as a person or a group of persons and he has to tell us how that business will survive beyond him because in about three or four years, he gets his degree and leaves the system and then what happens? So we want to be sure that it is a continuous business so as he leaves, some of the persons in the group will take over.”
How they involve the community:
“There is a compulsory course in AUN beyond entrepreneurship. We call it Community Service. Immediately you enter AUN, because we don’t want to be the typical ivory tower where you solve equations, the environment is neat but the outside does not look so clean and organised so we make them appreciate our people, the challenges there.
That interaction starts from year one, so by the time they get to year two or three when they will be doing this advanced entrepreneurship, they would have linked up sufficiently with the community to be able to know what they need.”