Tom Golisano launches Rochester business school to meet workforce needs

March 7, 2023


Mar 6, 2023, 6:00am EST

Golisano Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship is located at 150 Sawgrass Drive, Rochester.

During a time when many colleges are struggling with declining revenue and enrollment — which prompts mergers, acquisitions and closures — Tom Golisano, founder of Paychex Inc. and former owner of the Buffalo Sabres, is opening a business school.

The Golisano Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship is a not-for-profit two-year certificate program focused on business. The school, located at 150 Sawgrass Drive in Rochester, is opening this fall.

We think this model is very workable, very successful,” said Golisano, who is an entrepreneur and philanthropist and has invested in multiple regional companies. “It’s going to very much satisfy the needs that exist in our world.”

He aims to make school more affordable, more time efficient and more able to ensure graduates of the institute get jobs.

When he talks with employers, he hears two main prerequisites that they’re looking for: One, that people come to them with a functional knowledge of business in order to be successful, and two, that they have professional behaviors and attitudes.

Here’s how he’s setting out to fulfill those needs:

Low cost: The cost per year is $8,900, and there’s financial help for those who need it. Golisano is financing the school’s endowment so tuition can be affordable.

Time efficient: The school aims to reduce the time it takes to get an education by offering classes year-round so students can complete the business certificate in two years. Classes are also all done by around 1 p.m., so that students can work or fulfill other obligations in the afternoon and more easily afford their education.

Professional environment: Walking into the institute will be like entering a professional workplace. Work casual attire will be required and the school’s expectations will be like those of an employer.

Curriculum: All courses but two, psychology and oral and written communication, are business-specific. The curriculum is designed to be highly integrated with employers where half of each class is dedicated to applying specific business questions in a real-world context, both through helping existing business people solve problems they face and using entrepreneurs as case studies.

Every Wednesday morning, Golisano will bring in an entrepreneur to talk to the class, from personal history to mistakes to what’s next.

It will give opportunities to students to hear life stories, real things that happened to people over their lifetimes,” he said. “Getting to know entrepreneurs and getting exposure to them, I can get them to come in and talk to the class.”

The institute is aiming to enroll 250 new students per year and expects to hire about 25 faculty to start, according to President Ian Mortimer.

Mortimer has worked in higher education for more than 30 years, with his most recent role being vice president for enrollment management and associate provost at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

He got his bachelor’s in English and his master’s in education in counseling psychology from St. Bonaventure University, has an MBA from the Saunders College of Business at RIT and is finishing up his doctorate in business from Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business.

Long term, Golisano thinks the Rochester business school is just the beginning.

“There’s no reason why, once the model is established in Rochester, we can’t take it to other cities across the country,” he said. “I’m sure entrepreneurs across the country would see this as an opportunity.”

Lian Bunny Reporter – Buffalo Business First

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“The opportunity is out there. You just have to find it.

Tom Golisano, Founder

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