Giving Compass' Take:

• The Watson Institute program, founded in 2013, is an example of higher education that encourages entrepreneurship and student leadership through innovative partnerships. 

• How can donors support entrepreneurship in higher ed? 

• Discover more about social entrepreneurs. 


Founded in 2013, the Watson Institute program was first developed and refined at our campus in Boulder, Colorado. We started with a vision to become a stand-alone institution that could accelerate the careers of next-generation entrepreneurial leaders, but to manage the challenges of the accreditation process—and the limitations of scaling a stand-alone institution—Watson Institute developed an innovative partnership model (described in more detail below) and designed a strategy to become the “Intel Inside” of higher education institutions. Watson’s first institutional partnership launched in 2018 with Lynn University.

To be the “Intel inside” of higher education, Watson Institute partners with academic institutions to deliver the Watson Institute program on their campus as part of a pathway to an accredited certificate, minor, or major. Watson Institute is responsible for the marketing of the program to prospective students internationally and creates a new revenue stream for the university partner. The Watson Institute program differentiates the university partner to prospective students eager to find a pathway through higher education to a meaningful, impactful, and successful career afterward.

In each partnership, Watson Institute makes the upfront investment for:

  1. Program Design: The design of a customized curriculum and program tailored to existing offerings while taking full advantage of Watson Institute’s programmatic expertise.
  2. Program Delivery: The delivery of a collaborative program that includes identification of faculty and facilitation of extra-curricular support such as Watson Institute’s global network of mentors, Master Course Teachers, and connections to leading employers.
  3. Innovative Financial Aid Offerings: Programs can be made accessible to students while avoiding the pernicious trap of student debt through a novel form of financing higher education: income share agreements (ISA’s).
  4. Marketing and Recruitment: Marketing the program and recruiting diverse students internationally from Watson Institute’s global network of 300+ nominators and proven marketing channels.
  5. Employment Outcomes: Built into the curriculum itself are opportunities for students to connect with Watson Institute’s global employer network, develop in-demand skills, and facilitate a smooth transition to impactful and successful careers upon graduation.

Read the full article about entrepreneurship in higher education by Eric Glustrom and Brin Enterkin at Stanford Social Innovation Review.