Queen’s ‘Don’t Quit Your Day Job’ Degree

Shari Hughson calls the Queen’s University Master of Management Innovation & Entrepreneurship an “intensive residential bootcamp,” but while it may be intensive and certainly has all the trappings of a bootcamp, the newly remodeled program is not, in fact, residential.

After a revamp that is now under way, the MMIE is no longer based at the Kingston, Ontario, Canada campus of the Smith School of Business, says Hughson, program director. That’s because students and applicants made clear their desire to both keep working and work on their new ventures wherever they happened to be based.

“Most of the people who were applying were saying that they wanted to keep working and work on their business ventures on the side,” Hughson tells Poets&Quants. “It was a big question that people had because they weren’t quite ready yet to quit the day job — and most entrepreneurial people will tell you, ‘Don’t quit your day job.’ And then they were also saying that they want to physically get launched wherever their best target audience is anywhere in the world, in the new model for the program.”


Shari Hughson

The 12-month MMIE program’s fall 2017 intake was 65 students, 60% of whom are male, with an age range of 21 to 59. Most of the students — 75% — are Canadian residents, though 14 total countries are represented. The degree is offered in partnership between the Smith School and Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and a wide range of industries and interests are represented in the ranks: “students from every possible field, from engineering to business to philosophy, in both undergrad and work experience,” Hughson says. With a focus on innovation, intrapreneurship, and entrepreneurship, it is an internship-based program in which students begin in September and are available for four- or eight-month internships (two days per week) between January and August. The MMIE is $32,500 ($26,000 U.S.) for domestic students and $46,575 ($37,260) for international students.

The program offers two project paths, one for entrepreneurs and one for corporate/organizational innovators. The two paths each have two options, enabling students to personalize their experience. The Entrepreneurship Path allows students to start up or scale up their own venture, or be placed with a fast-rising startup; the Innovation Path allows students to complete a project with a current employer or be placed with an innovative organization. The two paths may be completed as full immersion, virtually, part-time, or any combination of these approaches.

About the “bootcamp” element of the program. It involves not one but three actual bootcamps in Kingston: a 16-day period in September, nine days in December, and nine days in May. “Those are the times they are on campus, and they are very intensive business learning environments, but at the same time, they are producing something during that time as well, so it’s not just learning content.”

In the first bootcamp, Hughson says, even as they are getting content “thrown at them daily” in a trio of courses, students working in teams must go “from idea to a business launch.” In the second bootcamp, students take two courses, Managing Technology and Innovation, and Innovation in Practice. In the third, those on the Entrepreneur Path will make pitch presentation, while those on the Corporate Innovation Path present their Innovation Project to the MMIE program leadership and representatives from their organization or corporation.


The Smith MMIE program “lives the innovation culture it teaches,” Hughson says. “It is constantly iterating to meet the changing needs of the students, our corporate and startup company partners, and the changes in industry.” The program’s new model, she says, allows students to personalize their learning to move themselves toward their goals with guidance on the journey.

“The program had been designed to be for early career, delivered on campus full-time, and that made it necessary that people had to move to Kingston, Ontario to take the program,” Hughson says. “That meant you had to quit your job, if you had a job already … So it would have been like any other full-time residential program. The first thing that we realized talking to all of the applicants was one, they were showing up older than what we originally expected, and two, that they were also saying they wanted to keep working and do the entrepreneurial stuff on the side.

“The other thing we do with the program is, we layered in what we call ‘tips from the field,’ which are workshops and guest lectures from corporate innovators and some really successful entrepreneurs from our alumni pool throughout the whole year. This is all done virtually, so students who are on campus can see all these things live or they can choose to watch.”

Hughson expects the program to appeal most to women, who have more difficulty uprooting for academic reasons. That may already be reflected in the high percentage of women in the program: 40%. “It’s harder for them to move somewhere for the year,” Hughson says. “They can’t move their families, the husband is not going quit a job and move here. So this is a program that boosts our diversity — and the more diverse you are, the more innovative you get.”


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