Written by Andrea Deckert for the Rochester Business Journal.
Originally published on October 23, 2023.
Shortly after his high school graduation in 2020, Ben Bastian got the entrepreneurial itch. So, after a stint at community college, Bastian decided to switch gears, launching PreMola Granola with his mom, Lisa, in late 2021. The granola line – which is made using his mom’s recipes – is now in nearly 20 stores throughout the Chicago area where Bastian is from and is also available for sale on-line. While the venture is going well, Bastian believed he had more to learn about running a business.
Ben Bastian, a member of the inaugural class at Golisano Business Institute, with his mom. (Photo provided)
When his father read an article about a new educational venture called The Golisano Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship – which is backed by billionaire businessperson and philanthropist Tom Golisano – the younger Bastian was sold. He is one of 50 students in the inaugural class at the Brighton-based school. Bastian – whose business relies on self-distribution – is optimistic the school will help give him the tools to scale up his business and take it to the next level. “I’ve got a lot to learn,” said Bastian, who is living at Innovation Square downtown while he attends the school. “And this is a great place for hands-on, applied learning.”
The Golisano Business Institute – announced in November of 2022 – is a not-for-profit two-year certificate program comprised exclusively of business-related subject matter aimed at reducing the time and cost of a traditional business school education. Golisano said his desire to start such an institute was driven by the high cost of traditional avenues of education.
He fully funded and endowed the establishment of the institute, where tuition for the two-year certificate program is $8,900 per year, payable in two installments of $4,450. Tuition assistance and scholarships are available for eligible students.
The first cohort of students started the program in September at 150 Sawgrass Dr., a former Paychex building that has undergone extensive renovation to create what school leaders there describe as a state-of-the-art learning facility. Classes run in-person year-round from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. four days a week, with an 11-weeks on and two weeks off cycle, allowing students time to hold employment while earning their certificate.
Ian Mortimer, president of the business school, said the first class includes a mix of students in various stages of life, including those right out of high school, students who took some college courses and others who already have a higher education degree. The faculty is diverse as well, which includes academics, business leaders and entrepreneurs.
Mortimer, who came to the school from Rochester Institute of Technology, said the first class is a good size and he anticipates the enrollment number will continue to grow as the institute develops and word gets out about its impact. Once they complete the program, the students will be ready for their next steps, whether they start a business, work at a company or continue their schooling, he said.
“Our students will be ready from a professional development standpoint,” Mortimer said.
Scott Baker, chief academic officer and vice president for academic affairs, said one of the benefits of the academic program there is its co-teaching component, which pairs two faculty members with different experiences to lead a class. Baker, who had worked with Mortimer at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt., said having the two-faculty classroom model also eliminates downtime from learning in case one is not able to attend a class.
The order and grouping of the 32 courses were also well thought out, he said, noting that the topics covered each quarter are interconnected, and career development is a recurring theme.
“At a lot of business schools, career development is on the periphery,” Baker said. “Ours is part of the program’s core.”
In addition to the classes, the school holds a weekly symposium, entitled “Speaking From Experience,” led by business leaders, changemakers and executives. There are also internship opportunities and additional events where students can network with local business leaders.
The business school is also placing an emphasis on collaboration and has already partnered with two schools – Syracuse University and Alfred State College – to offer its two-year certificate program graduates the option to pursue bachelor’s degrees at the educational institutions, which includes the ability to transfer some credits. The partnership with Syracuse also includes a reduced per credit rate for students who choose to pursue a degree through the university’s College of Professional Studies.
Additionally, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) announced it will open a flagship location at the Golisano Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship to provide middle and high school students with a weekly entrepreneurship education class beginning in November. School leaders are also in talks with ACT Inc., the company that administers the college entrance exam, on a career readiness initiative that would further align the curriculum with the skills most needed in the workforce, giving students a job readiness certificate when completed.
Mortimer and Baker are excited about the institute’s potential, pointing out during a recent tour of the school areas that will be sites of future development, from an entrepreneur’s lab and co-working space to a student-run store open to the community. They also envision a business incubator and accelerator on-site.
The new educational model, they say, is advantageous for aspiring entrepreneurs and is being rolled out at the right time. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to take all we have learned – whether it worked or if it didn’t – and share it with the students,” Baker said.
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"The opportunity is out there. You just have to find it."
Tom Golisano, Founder