March 2018

MCAD entrepreneurial studies students

In the ongoing effort to equip students with soft skills employers are looking for, Minneapolis College of Art and Design’s Arts Entrepreneurship department is preparing students for the business of art.

Artists and designers might not come to mind when thinking about soft skills like communication, teamwork, problem-solving or organizational skills. “Artist are highly trained and have a unique skill set,” said Stephen Rueff, director of the Arts Entrepreneurship department which offers an entrepreneurial studies undergraduate degree at MCAD. “At the same time, we’re helping them learn to shift their mindsets between the technical output to the creative and critical thinking part of projects.”

While students are learning technical skills like graphic design, filmmaking and photography, many are also opting into the more business focused courses — and they’re not just entrepreneurial studies majors. Students from across MCAD take a variety of entrepreneurial studies courses. These classes build skills that are in high demand not only by employers but by students as well, Rueff said.

Since 2015, when Rueff took over as director, the department has prioritized teaching students about people and teams. Over its 20-year history the department has had many different focuses. This new emphasis on the creative process is designed to help students leverage their talents in the business world.

Entrepreneurial studies students gain skills like teamwork, iteration, collaboration, project management, leadership and systems thinking, Rueff said.

With courses like financing innovation, leadership and professional development and human factors, the department is pairing MCAD’s world-class instruction in creative disciplines with these soft skills. “When you’re developing your technical skills typically you’re working alone,” Rueff said. “Then, when you’re out in the working world you’re in teams. We focus on the creative process which includes a lot of these skills and is the link between the two.”

The department also works with outside clients on business projects locally and globally to help students utilize skills learned in the classroom. Nothing can compare to working with real clients, on challenging projects, with tight deadlines and high expectations, Rueff said.

“Ultimately, we want our students to combine their creative talent with business practices to bring their contributions into projects earlier in the process,” Rueff said. “We want them to feel comfortable with the tools and language used by both creative and business teams so they can add value to their organizations or their clients.”

For more data and information on soft skills, check out our piece Big data speaks up for soft skills.

By Tom Lancaster