PSFK interviewed the founders of E[nstitute], a start-up redefining higher education through a two-year, apprenticeship-based, higher education model where students learn by doing. In addition to a curated curriculum, students will gain firsthand experience working directly under entrepreneurs, turning startups and small businesses around the world into classrooms. Interestingly, E[nstitute] is also positioning itself as an alternative path to traditional post secondary education, vying for a legitimate share of college-bound students. PSFK reached out to founders Kane Sarhan and Shaila Ittycheria to find out more.
How is E[nstitute] different from the traditional university model? Do you feel that it is addressing something missing from traditional educational models?
E[nstitute] is a two-year, apprenticeship-based, higher education model where students learn by doing. Challenging the belief that sitting in a classroom is the best way to learn, we place students with some of the world’s best entrepreneurs to learn on the job. Additionally, our fellows partake in a hyper-focused curriculum of core competencies through real-life applications and projects.
We believe that college is over-prescribed and many students graduate without the skills needed to be valuable contributors to companies, both large and small. A majority of students graduate with stunted critical thinking and problem solving skills and have taken out over 25K of debt in the process. Universities are not producing a competitive global workforce. We can.
What kind of skills will be important to thriving in the future workplace? How will E[nstitute] address these new challenges?
The workplace is drastically changing as innovation spreads across industries. Employers are looking for hires who are critical thinkers, problem solvers, and entrepreneurial. They are also interested in hires that can hit the ground running on day one. E[nstitute] prepares fellows to be marketable and talented employees who contribute value on day one.
How many students are being accepted during the first year and what is the selection criteria? Who is the ideal candidate for the program?
We are accepting 15 fellows to start this fall. We select fellows based on answers to application essay questions, video submission, and a series of interviews. We have limited barriers to applying to the program because we do not think how traditional education’s classification of you has any bearing on your success in our program or your expected value. We are looking for entrepreneurial and innovative 18-24 year olds who will work hard and change the world.
Who are the professors? Are you working with them to design a curriculum?
A majority of our fellows’ time is spent “on the job,” so we would call our entrepreneurs their “professors.” We are also working with educators like Dale Jasinski and Bror Saxberg to develop our curriculum. Furthermore, we are creating partnerships with startups in New York like Skillshare and Mindsnack to incorporate innovative learning models as part of our curriculum. We will have guest teachers and speakers throughout the year.
Why the big push for entrepreneurship? What do you see as the big shifts in the education landscape and marketplace that are opening the door for a learning model like yours?
Entrepreneurship is at the core of America, and apprenticeships are one of the oldest forms of western education. For the longest time, we have looked at a broken education system and put a band-aid on it with money and programs. Finally, we think lack of measurable value coupled with the student loan debt crisis has made people think twice about how we look at education and realize that we may need completely different models.
Whether it is the internet and the Khan Academy or skills-based classes like Skillshare, we are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to disrupting education. And who can disrupt better than entrepreneurs?
Thanks Kane and Shaila!