University of New Mexico’s University College (UC) joined forces with the Anderson School of Management and the Department of Communication and Journalism to offer Business Boot Camp, an eight-week course that connects entrepreneurial minded students with local business leaders and academic resources to formulate an actual business plan. The entire semester is dedicated to the growth, development and presentation of student innovation.

Business Boot Camp grew out of a Freshman Learning Communities program that included Shark Tank Talk, two courses linked together in a theme that examined communication strategies in situations where dialogue can be stressful and outcomes critical to the success of a project.

Taught by Stacy Sacco, a lecturer in Anderson School of Management and Gavin Leach, an instructor in Communication & Journalism, the class was so popular the duo teamed up again for the past spring semester to teach Business Boot Camp to students interested in starting a business venture of any kind.

Much like the reality TV series, “Shark Tank,” and like the students in Shark Tank Talk, the students in Business Boot Camp had the opportunity recently to pitch to a panel of judges, consisting of local investors and entrepreneurs, the viability and potential of their business idea. The “pitches” took place at ABQid, an accelerator for high-growth and technology startups in downtown Albuquerque.

“Connecting college students with my network of entrepreneurs makes this class one of a kind,” Sacco said. “I believe Gavin and I have stumbled upon a new teaching strategy – instructional design with real world application and connectivity.”

The students were really awesome,” said Nicole Taylor, one of the Business Boot Camp judges. “I see that many of them are hungry for something innovative and creative. There’s an entrepreneurial sparkle in their eyes.”

“I never thought that I can speak in front of a group of people and pitch,” said Thu Luu, a UNM employee who got her degree in finance. “I always thought that English is a language barrier for me. But I did it, thanks to everything I learned in Business Boot Camp.” Luu pitched her idea for a business in women’s workout apparel. Other ideas included an archery range, an upscale Las Vegas style night club and specialty beef raised in New Mexico and for national consumption.

Sacco and Leach are working with Robert DelCampo, associate dean of Anderson School of Management to get BBC included in the innovation Academy (iA) curriculum. The iA is the academic arm of Innovate ABQ, a collaborative initiative among UNM, STC.UNM, city and county government and the business community, where individuals can grow their talent and ideas into new businesses and jobs in New Mexico.

“We’re aware that we have a lot of students that come to UNM already knowing they want to start their own businesses,” said Sonia Rankin, associate dean for Curriculum and Program Development in UC. “They know they want a business degree, so we’re helping them develop the other factors that will make that degree find its fit in creating the industries of tomorrow.”

Rankin added that many of the student ideas will come from places outside of the Anderson School of Management as well.

“Anderson is great for many of our students, and we are excited to see what other ideas will come from students in the humanities, fine arts, engineering and more," Rankin said. "We want students to start thinking about an integrative approach early in their college experience. We want to move students beyond the idea that they’ve come to UNM to learn how to work in a job that is already established. We want them to do bigger things; answer the big questions of tomorrow and we believe that will happen with our students,” she said.