Through a structured educational program and mentoring, 10,000 Small Businesses will help hundreds of small businesses grow and create jobs. And it is just one of a string of initiatives Miami Dade College has in the works to promote or accelerate entrepreneurship. “We know the entrepreneurial energy exists in our community. What needs to grow are the opportunities to strategically support that energy,” said Eduardo J. Padrón, who is since 1995 the president of MDC, the largest institution of higher education in America, with more than 175,000 students.
Indeed with the college’s Miami Book Fair International celebrating its 30th anniversary next month and the Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center opening 24 years ago, MDC’s entrepreneurial roots run deep. A few current highlights: New industry-focused certificate and degree programs in tech and engineering, with an emphasis on mobile technologies. These include a bachelor’s of information systems technology including cyber security starting next year. Because of Miami Dade College’s track record in social entrepreneurial programming and engagement among its students, the college is trying to become an Ashoka Changemaker campus, an esteemed global network that so far only includes about 20 campuses, all of which commit to advancing social innovation at their campus and beyond. The college internship programs in tech are being strengthened, and summer programs for middle school and high school students combine technology and entrepreneurship, showing students the pathway to create their own job as well as improve their tech skills.
“MDC is actively involved in the tech community by collaborating on events that expose our students to the entrepreneurial activities locally with the goal of inspiring the brightest and most talented ones to become entrepreneurs themselves,” said Padrón, whose degrees are all in economics.
Earlier this year, Padrón and a team from the college went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University to look over their centers of innovation and best practices. Last week, he was attending Education Nation and CityLab in New York City. He answered these questions about MDC’s missions to improve STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education and foster entrepreneurship in South Florida.
Q. What is Miami Dade College’s role in building South Florida’s emerging tech and entrepreneurial hub?
The foundational spirit of Miami Dade College is built around the value of opportunity. Just as the college is an open door institution that provides a broad range of learning opportunities, we want to provide an entrepreneurial environment that reflects the diversity of new business energy in our community.
We need an environment that fosters creative and strategic efforts at business development. We want students to develop creative business pursuits, and open the opportunity for growing small business to the full range of our community’s entrepreneurs. MDC also has a very extensive and engaged alumni network as well as professional advisory boards, and many of these people will be valuable contributors as guides and mentors to new business development.