Beyond Wall Street: Schools chip in on rescue
New York Citys universities which account for more students than the entire population of Boston are being called upon to help rescue the city from its economic woes.
When you can assemble as many high-end academic institutions as we have here in New York, this is the place by definition where youre going to have a lot of really smart people, said Robert Lieber, deputy mayor for economic development.
While the citys universities, which have more than 600,000 students, are cultivating the usual young talent, the newly unemployed and other professionals seeking career changes are heading back to school and not necessarily by enrolling in traditional, years-long degree programs.
After launching his all-natural fruit beverage business, Star Power, last year, Vik Venkatraman, a Columbia alum, approached the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (CORE), a student group, to help develop his internship program.Owning a small business that employs about six full-time employees, Venkatraman has leaned on interns to help with sales, marketing and public relations.
The toughest thing is to find good help, said Venkatraman, 25. And the reason I went back to Columbia is I know what its like to be a student there. I know what to expect with a Columbia student.
But there are many other ways New Yorks universities are pitching in during the recession.
Columbias School of Continuing Education, for example, has created a post-baccalaureate program that acts as a bridge for those lacking the prerequisites to enroll in graduate school.
What were seeing is a lot of people who are transitioning from business, in particular finance, to other areas, said Tom Harford, the programs director.
NYU alumni, too, are flocking back to their alma mater for ideas. The schools Berkley Center for Entrepreneurial Studies has always opened workshops and seminars to students and alumni. In recent months, attendance at such events has doubled, mostly due to alumni who are considering starting their own businesses, said Jeffrey Carr, executive director of the Berkley Center.
When the whole crisis started, there was a lot of crying and gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands that people werent going to start businesses, Carr said. But quite frankly, weve seen the opposite. Its an opportunity for people to reinvent themselves.
The Bloomberg administration has even worked to bring the unemployed and universities together. Last week, the city launched a pilot program called JumpStart at SUNYs The Levin Institute. The three-month program, which includes 10-week internships, helps former Wall Street workers who recently lost their jobs by teaching them entrepreneurial skills.
In March, the city and The Levin Institute unveiled another entrepreneurial training program, FastTrac NewVenture, for professionals from a wide range of fields.
It gives people real practical training that they can immediately turn around and apply in order to get commitments from the venture capitalists so that they can give folks the opportunity to begin working, Lieber said.
Photo: Vik Venkatraman presents his all-natural fruit drink, Star Power. (Photo by RJ Mickelson/amNY)