By: Aliza Leichter  | 

Department Spotlight: Strategy and Entrepreneurship

The department formerly known as “business management” currently awaits approval from New York State to have the name changed to “strategy and entrepreneurship,” according to Professor Sharon Poczter, who was hired in Fall 2017 to chair the department at Sy Syms School of Business (SSSB). Poczter formerly lectured in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University; her research has been published in Bloomberg, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and in the book “Lean In” by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. 

Under Poczter’s leadership, the strategy and entrepreneurship department has been completely revamped with the hiring of new professors and removal of several courses, including “Managing Business in a Global Environment,” which Poczter claims was too broad and vestigial for students. Poczter maintains that it was necessary to shift the focus of the major because baseline courses focusing on management are not applicable to understanding competitiveness, a necessary skill for identifying the weaknesses of a business’s strategy. These changes reflect an awareness that undergraduate students are rarely hired as managers upon their entrance to the workplace. 

Within the total overhaul of the major, a foundational course titled, “Principles of Strategy,” was added. Other strategy offerings include the summer elective, “International Business Strategy,” which introduces the frameworks to implement in the context of global competition and “Turnaround Business Strategy”; the latter course addresses how to stabilize a company whose financial performance indicates failure in the near future. These courses provide answers to the fundamental questions of why some businesses are successful while others fail and how to foster company growth. 

In a course called “Angel Finance and Venture Capital,” students have the opportunity to transport strategy and entrepreneurship concepts from the classroom to the professional world by working as student venture interns. This two-semester series is taught by YU alumni Moshe Bellows (YC ‘90, ‘W ‘08) and Bruce Taragin (YC ‘89). The first semester is a general overview of Angel Finance and Venture Capital, which refers to an investment model where high-net worth individuals provide financial backing for small businesses in exchange for equity in the company. In the second-semester, students source and work for startups in Maccabee Ventures, a $10 million early-stage technology fund. 

The entrepreneurship side of the department offers the foundational course, “Principles of Entrepreneurship,” as well as electives such as “Startup Strategy” and “Megatrends,” an exploration of artificial intelligence, blockchain and cryptocurrency. “Ideation” is an elective offered in the summer that deals with the blueprint for formulating good business ideas and contrasting them to unsuccessful ones. 

“Innovation Lab,” a course focused on entrepreneurship, is another opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience. The lab opened in May 2019 after YU received a grant from New York State to provide a physical space for Israeli startups on campus. Dr. Maria Blekher, the founding director of YU Innovation Lab, recruited the participating companies and worked with Poczter to create a course in which students spend the semester working directly with companies. 

According to Blekher, “YU Innovation Lab was established with a vision to create a borderless NYC-based ecosystem that bridges the gap between the U.S. market and Israeli technology via a unique model, which is a business accelerator within the academic setting.” 

Commenting on how the opportunities within the Lab expand YU’s scope, Blekher remarked that, “Today, the Lab amplifies the synergy between YU community talent (students, faculty, advisers, alumni, industry experts) and outstanding entrepreneurs, to make a positive impact on the NY ecosystem and beyond.” 

Depending on the area of interest, it can be beneficial to pair strategy and entrepreneurship with an additional SSSB major. For those more interested in entrepreneurship, marketing provides an understanding of how to best promote a product or service to consumers. For students embarking on the venture capital route, a finance major provides insight into the process of acquiring funds. For students with any interest within the business umbrella, it is fundamental to understand the strategy that determines why some businesses succeed and others fail. 

Tamar Segal (SSSB ‘21) paired her strategy and entrepreneurship major with a marketing minor, a decision that enables her to pursue various career paths. “I switched my major from biology to strategy and entrepreneurship, with a minor in marketing, after discovering that the opportunities available in Syms would allow me to combine my interest in healthcare with the field of business,” Segal explained.

There are a variety of career options available to strategy and entrepreneurship majors, including management consulting and business development. Poczter explains that “Management consulting is a fruitful avenue for Strategy and Entrepreneurship students as they are essentially ‘physicians for companies,’ identifying and diagnosing problems within companies as well problem-solving solutions. This is congruent with the coursework in the department which enables students to understand whether and why a company's strategy is successful or not, now and in the future.” 

According to Poczter, “The goal for the department is to continue to grow the course offerings to prepare students for the job market, with courses that echo the important changes in the business environment.” In fact, Poczter helped institute a new course for the Spring 2021 semester, titled, “The Business of Biotech,” which aims to interpret the changes happening to companies worldwide as a result of the pandemic. The course is taught by Herman Weiss, Practitioner in Residence in the Katz School of Science and Health. 

Director of the SSSB Executive MBA Program, Mark Finkel, remarked, “In the past few years, under Professor Poczter, the Strategy and Entrepreneurship Department has created an extraordinary breadth of course choices, allowing students to build strong Entrepreneurship skills. As a result, students often find previously unconsidered career paths or new dimensions to an existing career path.”

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University
Photo Caption: Prof. Sharon Poczter has revitalized the Strategy and Entrepreneurship Department.