Jim Wolfe addresses a group of students

Taking a Corner of the World

Entrepreneurship grows by leaps and bounds at Mason

By Tara Laskowski, MFA Creative Writing ’05

Entrepreneurship is about saving the world.” When Jim Wolfe says this, he’s not exaggerating. The new entrepreneur in residence in the School of Management (SOM) is excited about his concepts and ideas, and he is not afraid to show it.

“Entrepreneurs bring applications of science and innovative ideas to the forefront,” says Wolfe. “Sure, we need big companies, but it is the entrepreneurial process, the small companies thriving on the Internet or in the shadows of the big guys, that bring the new ideas into action.”

The creation of Wolfe’s position in SOM is just one of many endeavors George Mason University has embarked on to push entrepreneurship to the forefront. With its location in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, one of three major biotech and software centers in the nation, Mason offers unique resources for the entrepreneur. Wolfe and others at the university are eager to propel these resources to reach further out to the community.

Wolfe knows all about entrepreneurship; he has been practicing it for more than 20 years. He founded his own economic development and international investment consulting firm in 1989, a software development and services company in 1997, and a private business consulting firm, J Street Consulting, in 2001.

But beyond all the experience, Wolfe knows how to teach his strategies and knowledge to others. Prior to coming to Mason, he taught at the University of Maryland and developed his own online textbook in entrepreneurship. Now at Mason, he’s teaching MBA-level courses in entrepreneurship, a business planning course, and a course on managing entrepreneurial growth.

His enthusiasm and passion for teaching are not lost on his students. “Professor Wolfe ... has been lighting a fire under the MBA Program since he got here, trying to take it in a new direction and really building up its reputation,” says MBA student Patrick Williams.

The Entrepreneurial Student

Long before Wolfe came to Mason, though, the university was encouraging and witnessing the entrepreneurial spirit in students and faculty. New Century College, the School of Public Policy, SOM, and other colleges and schools across Mason are contributing to the entrepreneurial movement.

SOM and the School of Public Policy sponsored the first annual Research Conference on Entrepreneurship in 2004 and were so successful that they held another in December 2005. Deans from several schools have initiated a Center for Entrepreneurship Development that will promote innovative, teaching, collaborative research, and best practices.

“There is a notion of religious fervor among entrepreneurs,” says Wolfe. “We want to make money, of course, but we are also changing the world in our own little corner.”

Classroom Projects Moving Beyond the Grade

In one case, an entire class pulled together to partner for an entrepreneurial effort that, as Wolfe might say, really might make a positive difference in the world. The first graduating class of SOM’s Bioscience Management Program used their capstone project as the jumping-off point for their newly formed company, Neurocor Inc., which specializes in discovering, developing, and marketing drugs for the treatment of neurological disorders.

The seven members of the class spent more than a year developing a business plan for their company. Over the summer, after graduation, they met with a lawyer to formally launch the company.

The company received a provisional patent for the company’s first drug, originally developed by one of the Bioscience Management graduates, Farouk Karoum, MS Bioscience Management ’05. The drug that Karoum, a former research scientist at the National Institutes of Health, developed will help in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurological disease after Alzheimer’s disease, diagnosed in people over the age of 65.

“Currently, standard treatment of Parkinson’s involves replacing lost dopamine in the brain, which is the underlying cause of Parkinson’s,” explains Karoum. “Levodopa, the chemical precursor of dopamine, is the most commonly used drug for replacement theory; however, this treatment has limitations. Our product, DOPACOR, is designed to improve on current levodopa treatments and address the limitations that exist.”

Adjunct professor Gyan Prakash, who worked closely with the students throughout the program, is immensely proud of their entrepreneurial effort. “They really did a fantastic job and are committed to their ideas,” he says. “I believe that the Bioscience Management Program could become the premier program of its kind in the country with talented students and alumni such as this. They’ve gone beyond my expectations.”

The success of entrepreneurial students at Mason seems to be growing each year. J.P. Auffret, director of SOM’s Technology Management Program, believes that the quality of the students, as well as the continuing focus on the concepts and programs that develop these attitudes, helps immensely with this success.

“These are top-notch students who have experience and ideas,” Auffret says. “We simply give them the tools, the training, and the techniques, so they can carry out these ideas.”

But above all, says Wolfe, the most important thing students can learn about entrepreneurship is that it is not just about being your own boss. “An entrepreneur is an agent of change. He or she attacks a problem without regard to resources at hand, figures it out, and finds ways to work around it. An entrepreneur sees something that seems impossible and asks, ‘What else can I do?’” And by giving students the empowerment to think in that way, Wolfe himself is building a better workforce for the future and, in his own small way, changing the world.

The Entrepreneurial Student

In SOM alone, entrepreneurial students and alumni are seizing the opportunities provided by the metropolitan Washington area and running with them. In just the past few semesters, more than 30 students or student groups have successfully started up businesses while at Mason or after graduating, including


Members of the newly formed company Neurocor Inc. hold a business meeting in Washington, D.C.

Mason seniors Tommy Moore and Brandon Labman have run Responsible Outgoing College Students (ROCS) since 2003, a for-profit, student-centered staffing agency that this year won a Global Student Entrepreneur Award.