A Failing Hampshire Experiment: The Seed Fund

Luke Richardson

The Hampshire College Seed Fund is an experiment made possible by one of our alum, Michael Vlock (class of 1975). In essence, 3 years ago, Vlock gave the school $1 million dollars to be distributed by students for student projects. In the Hampshire spirit, this opportunity is unheard of at any other academic institution. The Student Entrepreneurship Task Force was formed, and processed were developed for the Seed Fund for Innovation (SFI) to be distributed by a student-run steering committee. Unfortunately, neither our school nor its student body was truly prepared to take on this responsibility: in short, Hampshire has failed in managing this Seed Fund. Students passionate about the initiative graduated, both groups lost membership, the policy that gave out the first round of investments was overhauled, criticism of the project abounded, and confusion took over the SFI. However, this was neither due to a lack oversight or organization. It was quite simply, in my view, a communication failure given the institutional politics that run this school. Separation between Hampshire’s five “Interdisciplinary Schools” has pushed entrepreneurship and the SFI exclusively into the Interdisciplinary Arts (IA), making campus-wide involvement painstakingly difficult for the faculty working on this otherwise exciting initiative.

Instead of working against it for improvement, Hampshire faculty have predictably ostracized entrepreneurship to the point that it can’t even be brought up in certain circles. Our professors need to take the time to critique the “feel-goodery” they associate with entrepreneurship together instead of against each other, and work together to build and change what is still an emerging area of study. If entrepreneurship and the Seed Fund were actually campus-wide resources as they were intended, then maybe they could actually push the boundaries of higher education and their own fields. The Seed Fund is a work in progress, and if you like being a part of the only school to EVER give students the opportunity to run their own investment fund, I would encourage you to get involved.

Email the seed fund to find out more: sfi@hampshire.edu

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