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Introducing “Disrupt Berkeley,” a Fall 2019 Challenge Lab Course

If you had the chance to re-design any administrative system at UC Berkeley, which would you choose? That is the question that students will be answering this fall in the “Disrupt Berkeley” Challenge Lab course offered through the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (SCET). Through experiential learning and entrepreneurial product creation, students in “Disrupt Berkeley” will have the chance to re-imagine Berkeley’s administration systems to work better for faculty, staff, and students at UC Berkeley. 

Disrupt Berkeley will give students the chance to make a tangible change within the university by creating new products that may get adopted by the administration. The course is particularly exciting because students can directly address problems they’ve experienced with university administration. Like other Challenge Lab courses offered by SCET, Disrupt Berkeley will be cross-disciplinary, meaning the students will come from diverse academic backgrounds. The class will be comprised of manifold teams that will develop varied ideas and products to reform dated administrative technology. Because the eventual products will apply directly to the way the university is run, students will have the opportunity to engage directly with stakeholders and make a positive impact on the entire campus community. 

Disrupt Berkeley will be SCET’s first “inward-facing” course, according to the course lecturer and organizer Rick Rasmussen, since the course projects will ultimately improve the university. “Oftentimes the students in Challenge Lab courses have great startup ideas and projects, but they don’t always ‘take off,’” added Rasmussen.   

The idea for Disrupt Berkeley came about from wanting to make a course that would be practical and useful within the university, something that would be collaborative but also university-focused, according to Rasmussen.  

Take the website BerkeleyTime, for example. Berkeley students developed BerkeleyTime to improve the course catalog and information portal. The students realized the problem, created a more comprehensive and user-friendly website, and published their platform that was eventually bought by the Associated Students of the University of California. Disrupt Berkeley allows undergraduates to change or improve university administrative systems for course credit, with the help of an advisor. Disrupt Berkeley teams may develop the university’s next innovative platform, like BerkeleyTime.

Based on the experiential learning principles of the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship (BMoE), Disrupt Berkeley will focus on the mindset and tools used to implement real-world startups. Each team of students will uncover the problem, gain buy-in from various stakeholders, work with mentors to come up with a potential solution, then go through the process of proposing how to create their application. Projects from the semester will eventually be presented to the administrators for feedback.

Beyond simply building their product, teams will navigate realistic challenges introduced through case studies and other course material. Students will both learn from creating their own product and analyzing real-world examples. Through diverse teams and continual interaction with mentors and sponsors, student teams will develop a sound, working prototype and a “white paper.”

The Disrupt Berkeley Challenge Lab is an elective, non-requisite 4-unit course offered listed in the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research department as IEOR 185E. This course is open to students across the university who seek a challenging, interactive, team-based, and hands-on learning experience in entrepreneurship and technology. Disrupt Berkeley also provides unique insight into the inner workings of the UC Berkeley administration. The course counts towards the Sutardja Certificate in Technology and Entrepreneurship.


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