The SURE™ Program
The primary stakeholder group served by the SURE™ Program is students. Receiving an education to find employment, students face three distinct problems based on what today’s workforce demands. The first is that many entry level positions require experience. The catch-22 that a job which is entry level requires experience is an irony not lost on many students. Many turn to experiential education opportunities to get much needed experience. Another problem students face is that employers are increasingly finding that good grades are not enough. They need students who possess “soft skills,” such as collaboration and leadership. It is difficult for students to both attain these skills in a traditional classroom setting and also demonstrate them to potential employers. Finally, students face the looming threat of automation brought on by artificial intelligence. The idea that students may lose their jobs to algorithms or robots very early into their careers has them looking to traditional yet still unconventional skills associated with community engagement: empathy, human-centered design, and storytelling. Learning these skills is one way that they distinguish themselves. This confluence of experiential education, critical skill building, and community engagement puts the SURE™ Program at the forefront of the University of Houston’s five year Quality Enhancement Plan.
Brainstorming to Bankrolling
This course provides a unique opportunity to explore the area of social entrepreneurship from a theoretical, practical, and experiential perspective. Concepts such as Base of the Pyramid and its importance as a business opportunity in today's global economy are analyzed with emphasis on key issues and current challenges presented in the market place. Given the evolving complexities, it is important that business students understand the nuances of shared economies and the opportunities and challenges of social entrepreneurship. Equally important, understand Microfinance and how to achieve a TRIPLE Bottom Line.
By the end of the course, students have a clear understanding of the complexities of social entrepreneurship and have enhanced their skills as a consultant and project leader. They are empowered to become self-directed learners and decision makers through experiential learning, collaborative relationships with subject-matter experts, and mentoring of aspiring entrepreneurs. Students learn how to write and create a business plan and how to present to investors. Students not only see how theories become practical applications — from idea to innovation to integration into an entrepreneurial ecosystem, but also how this course and their involvement impact the under-resourced entrepreneurs and veterans in the Houston area — experiencing entrepreneurship in action where concepts create economic and social development.
Research and Applications of Microfinance
This is the second course available for students who wish to participate in the SURE™ program. This is a highly flexible course that allows students to design a project around their interests and the overarching goals of the SURE™ program. Students also assist the current cohort of consultants (students) enrolled in the Brainstorming to Bankrolling course.
The SURE™ Program borrows the term “under-resourced” from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Complete Communities initiative, of which SURE™ is a partner. What defines these communities is the under-representation when it comes to educational services, financial services, and the informal networks that make it easier to start a business. After passion and drive, there are a lot of things a new entrepreneur needs to be successful that are missing in some Houston communities. An estimated 21% of residents in the City of Houston live below the poverty line (compared with 14% of the U.S. population). In the top 20 most impoverished zip codes in Houston, poverty rates range between 35 and 55%. Poverty in Houston is not, however, the result of a weak economy. Instead, the prevalence of poverty is linked to other limiting factors such as insufficient education and impaired access to capital.
SURE™ Program for Entrepreneur
During the semester, budding and aspiring entrepreneurs come to campus in order to learn accounting, marketing, supply chain management, personal finance, and many other topics from some of the best subject matter experts Houston has to offer. By the end of the semester, we hope to take these entrepreneurs, who came to us with only an idea (brainstorming), all the way to being ready to pitch to banks and other institutions for funding (bankrolling).
SURE™ Fellow Program
Following the successful completion of the program, SURE™ Entrepreneur Graduates are able to apply for and participate in the SURE™ Fellow Program.