The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship

Alumna Melissa James, Founder and CEO of Tech-Connection

Melissa James realized early on in her career that tech companies severely lacked diversity. She sought to change that by forming her own recruitment company to help diversify the field.

“It was definitely something that I noticed and I thought this is a great field, this is a booming industry,” says James. “They are working on cutting edge problems every day. I would really love to see more people that look like me be a part of this conversation.”

About the Industry

Entrepreneurship is developing a business or new product from the ground up, hence the term "start-up". Entrepreneurs are risk-takers, innovators, and are willing to explore and develop opportunities in order to create something new. Successful entrepreneurs recognize the "right" opportunities at the right time, find the resources they need, and put together the right team to turn the idea into reality.

Just as entrepreneurs change the face of business, social entrepreneurs act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss to improve systems, invent new approaches, and create solutions to change society for the better. While a business entrepreneur might create entirely new industries, a social entrepreneur develops innovative solutions to social problems and then implements them on a large scale.

Sample Classes

Below are a few examples, but we urge you to talk to your major/departmental advisor and explore available courses in SPIRE. Remember not to constrain yourself to classes within your major.


LABOR 204 - Labor and the Global Economy: Learn about globalization and its impact on workers in the U.S. and internationally, focusing on the impacts of recent trends in economic and political globalization on workers.  


ECON 394FI - Finance and Society: Apply knowledge you've gained about basic economic theory to a historical and contextual study of the myriad ways in which finance and society have interacted over recent centuries.


RESECCON 162 - The Consumer in Our Society: Learn about the role consumers play including their decision-making and market and non-market consumption activities.


RESECON 324 - Small Business Finance: Theory and application of Entrepreneurial Finance and basic financial management for a small firm. Emphasis on writing and presenting a complete business plan, in addition to examining topics such as financial statements, profitability and break-even analysis, working capital, capital budgeting, and forecasting.


SOCIOL 103 - Social Problems: America's major social problems--past and present--are examined.  These include crime, mental health, drug addiction, family tensions and inequalities based on race, gender, ethnicity and social class.


SOCIOL 386 - Complex Organizations: The significance of large, complex organizations like schools, hospitals, businesses, religions and government.  How such organizations identify goals and achieve them.  How such organizations change over time and why.  


SUSTCOMM 125 - Global Cities & Global Issues: By examining cities within a global context, students should recognize that any challenge can also be viewed as an opportunity for implementing positive change. As such, we examine global cities in order to ask a central question: what does it mean to be an active and engaged citizen living in any city, town, or village?


JOURNAL 335 - Principals of Public Relations: This course addresses the principles and practices of public relations and strategic communication in the public, private, for-profit and non-profit arenas.


Depending on your main area of interest, your academic pathway will shift. To explore this field, you can take courses that will provide you with knowledge and skills in:


  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Effective communication skills
  • Leadership
  • Quantitative skills
Co-Curricular Activities

Being involved in on and off campus activities and organizations will give you experience and help you hone in on what you really love doing. Consider joining organizations that will provide you with a deeper understanding of the professional areas you’re considering. You’ll learn more about the field, meet people who share your interests, and have something to include on your resume to show your dedication. Go to the RSO webpage and start searching!


Some sample clubs are and organizations:


  • UMass Entrepreneurship Club
  • Civic Engagement & Service Learning
  • The Resource Economics Society
Internships and Experience

Explore the different aspects of the industry through internships, co-ops, job shadowing, and other experiential opportunities. This will help you hone in on your interests while building an impressive knowledge base and resume for when you enter the job market. Established entrepreneurial organizations can be great places to gain experience and learn the different parts of a company or organization. Internships with start-ups can be a bit haphazard and unfocused, but this is the nature of working in a start-up. It is an all-hands-on-deck atmosphere, so flexibility is key. SBS students and alumni have completed internships in this field at places like:


  • Verite
  • Extra Solid Media
  • Nuestras Raices
  • Think Alive Foundation
  • Backupify
  • Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network
  • Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce


Find an internship or co-op that suits you by using these search and application tips and by searching the Career Connect database.

Sample Job Titles
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
  • Founder / Co-Founder
  • President
  • Owner
  • Partner
  • Director
  • Chief Operating Officer (COO)