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Taking that next step

JCU’s entrepreneurial-focused modules empowers its students to be business owners

For former interior designer Daniel Wong, 29, studied the joint degree, Master of International Tourism and Hospitality Management - Master of Business Administration at JCU before opening The Obelisk. PHOTO: TED CHEN

For former interior designer Daniel Wong, 29, opening his own bar and restaurant, The Obelisk, was more than taking a leap of faith - it marked the culmination of his studies to become an entrepreneur.

The James Cook University (JCU) alumnus who studied the joint degree, Master of International Tourism and Hospitality Management - Master of Business Administration at the Singapore campus, graduated in August 2018 and was determined to start his own business.

His interest in the industry was piqued when he took a module in gastronomy, where the students are taught to develop business plans for F&B establishments.

Mr Wong says: "I'd never thought about opening a food and beverage (F&B) establishment before taking up the program at JCU. Considering how 80 per cent of F&B businesses closes within three years, the prospect seemed quite intimidating.

"But I learnt that as an entrepreneur, I must prepare yourself for the worst outcomes. Treat all negative situations as a trial and opportunity for me to learn and progress."

"You can call yourself an entrepreneur once you set up a business, but the most important part is on how to make it sustainable. And the gastronomy module taught me how to cut costs and aim for sustainability."

Learning by example

Dr Adrian Bradshaw, business lecturer at JCU, says: "A number of our MBA students go on to start their own businesses. Quite often they seek advice from lecturers on how their learning can help them. This is very important for our approach to the MBA program. We strive to give students an authentic experience in business and to support them in their career aspirations."

"JCU has plenty of lecturers with vast experiences," says Mr Wong. "If you're able to learn from multiple lecturers, you'd have plenty of knowledge and wisdom in your arsenal to face the real world. When lecturers relate real-life experiences to theories in modules, students learn better than just memorising theories and models."

"Dr. Bradshaw would always come up with crazy and funny ideas for the students - to help the students kick-start their sense of creativity, think outside the box and improvise."

JCU provides a balanced and modern curriculum. The university ensures that the content of its modules are relevant, current and updated regularly to include the latest developments, examples and cases.

It achieves this by engaging industry professionals as guest speakers during class sessions, conducts industry visits, and research on industry-based contemporary projects. Its modules are also designed to be entrepreneurial-focused, with a number of subjects aimed at guiding students to develop business plans.

Nobody gets left behind

An education at JCU means experiential learning and receiving global values.

Students facing difficulties will find various support systems to help them perform well and succeed in their studies.

Dr Bradshaw says: "Formal support is available in the form of the Learning Support office. Beyond that, subjects will also have scheduled meeting times for students to approach lecturers for assistance and support."

Dr K Thirumaran, head of academic group, business, IT and science, says: "The academics at JCU are readily available and approachable, willing to provide strong guidance to students and bring the wealth of industry experience to classroom teaching and learning. The learning support services are available for all students with academic concerns. We also have peer tutoring and mentors to help those with study challenges."

The lecturers mentor, motivate and inspire the students one on one, providing a well-rounded experience for students to support their academic, professional and personal goals. Textbook learning alone is not enough in preparing for the workforce needs. That is why JCU places great emphasis on learning through experience with its industry attachment programmes.

Dr Thirumaran says: "Aside from opting for professional internships, all MBA students have the opportunities for experiential learning through industry site visits, talks by industry professionals and opportunities to collaborate with their lecturers to publish scientific research papers."

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