BY SENIOR REPORTER
Following a 12-year career at the university, William Young, an adjunct professor at Horn Entrepreneurship, will be retiring at the end of the semester.
Over the last decade, Young, referred to as DY by students and faculty, has not only served as a pioneer within Horn but, with his unique approach to education and emphasis on real-life experience, has fostered a close-knit, passionate community of students whom he has had a profound impact on.
In 2006, when DY was first presented with the opportunity to work as an adjunct professor, he became the university’s second professor of entrepreneurship. Since then, Horn has grown significantly in terms of both faculty and students — up until four years ago, individuals were only able to pursue minors in entrepreneurship.
In addition to his role as one of the earliest entrepreneurship faculty, DY has also been fortunate to do a handful of other historic things at the university, which include, and are not limited to, being the first individual to lead a study abroad program for Horn, and also holding the first course entirely based on internships.
DY largely attributes his impact to the synergy and relationships he has been able to build with students.
“My personal life, my business life and my teaching life, there’s no wall between any of them,” DY said. “Students have gotten close to me, colleagues even joke that my classes have earned a ‘cult-like’ following.”
The allure of DY’s classes can likely be contributed to his unconventional educational philosophy, which fosters a hands-on environment much different from the majority of traditional lectures offered at the university.
“Students pay a certain amount of money to take my class; if I don’t provide them with a way and an education on how to make as much money as they spent on my class by the end of the semester, I haven’t done my job,” he said.
Based on practical learning and creativity, DY’s entrepreneurial marketing class pushes students to engage in a variety of activities rooted in teamwork and interaction with real consumers and businesses.
Those who take his entrepreneurial marketing class have found that, by working with real people and products, they have learned more about business than any lecture-based class has attempted to teach them.
Andrea Wade, a senior marketing and entrepreneurship & technology (ENTI) double major, has been a student of and teaching assistant for DY. She attributed the experience she gained from DY’s classes to a shift in her professional ambitions.
“I came into college thinking I was going to end up working a traditional nine-to-five job and now I am graduating, wanting to eventually be my own boss and create my own business,” Wade said.
DY explained that his courses are designed to provide undergraduates with connections and tools that can be brought and applied outside of the classroom.
For example, in his entrepreneurial marketing class, DY breaks students into marketing agencies and assigns each group a real company to work with. Throughout the course, students take what they have learned and develop a marketing plan for their designated business. At the end of the semester, students are able to add this experience to their resumes.
Adam Polansky, a senior entrepreneurship & technology innovation major, has known DY since taking his class as a first-year student. Polansky said that he remembers his first day, when he sat in the back, shy and afraid to take risks.
“He pointed me out and really broke me out of my shell by putting me in uncomfortable situations,” Polansky said.
Recently, Polansky launched a company of his own — a streetwear brand called Be[MAN]Kind. The startup focuses on the importance of acceptance and inclusion in a climate that has become increasingly divisive. The company’s main message, according to Polansky, is to “treat others with respect regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or beliefs.”
“I initially brought the idea to DY and he loved it,” Polansky said. “He has been so supportive, providing me with a lot of different contacts to help me launch the brand, including the t-shirt company and the sponsors for the launch event.”
This semester, DY allowed Polansky’s streetwear startup to be one of the companies for which entrepreneurial marketing students can intern for. By creating a marketing plan for him, DY’s students have given Polansky a number of suggestions on how to continue to promote Be[Man]Kind and further his business.
A professor-turned-mentor for Polansky, Wade and a number of other students who have taken his classes, DY said that he has looked at his role as a professor over the years and thought of it more like a coach.
“My job is to tell students the best way to use the knowledge that they have and motivate them to keep moving forward,” he said. “I always tell my students that this is your life, you only get one of them, you might as well do something you love to do.”