June 26, 2024

Got Skills?

Skills Labs, offered through the Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership, give students of any major a leg up on entry to the workplace.

Woman and man characters putting light bulb, books and gear into human head to improve work skills. Flat cartoon vector illustration. A growing menu of 1-credit courses help students gain hard/technical skills to complement their liberal arts education.

by Tara Elsa BA ’25 and Shelly Meyer

Lewis & Clark students can now pair their liberal arts coursework with Skills Labs, offered by the Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership. These courses, open to any major or minor, build students’ technical skills for the workplace of today and tomorrow. Most of the courses are one credit and run for eight weeks, or half a semester.

The Skills Labs grew out of the Bates Center’s Innovation at Work internship/seminar course. Five years ago, in 2019, Chrys Hutchings, managing director of the Bates Center, and Meredith Goddard, adjunct instructor and IT director of enterprise applications, cotaught that class. Seeing how receptive students were to adding tech skills to their internship experience, Goddard wrote a white paper that ultimately led to the creation of the Skills Labs.

“AI for Business allowed me to get familiar using different types of AI and learn how it can increase my efficiency. It also helped me to understand the shortcomings of AI and how to use it responsibly.”

Jayden Simpson BA ’24
Major/Minor: Economics/Entrepreneurial Leadership and Innovation
Skills Labs Taken: AI for Business, Data Visualization, and Excel

The Bates Center began offering Skills Lab courses for students during the 2022–23 academic year. Current offerings include AI for Business, AI for Creatives, Excel, and Data Visualization. More courses are planned for the future, such as Geographic Information System (GIS), Power BI, and Social Media.

These Skills Labs teach students hard/technical skills that they can use in their careers and complement the touchstones of a liberal arts education: critical thinking, written and verbal communication skills, teamwork, and problem solving. Students gain confidence and capabilities to help them thrive in their future jobs.

“A passion is not actionable if it is not accompanied by skill sets, resources, and a network,” says Hutchings. “Understanding the problem is insufficient if you’re not equipped with the ability to help execute a solution.”

“I think in an increasingly data-driven world, having some idea of Excel, one of the cornerstone programs for data management, provides very valuable perspective.”

Cooper Kroll BA ’24
Major: Sociology and Anthropology
Skills Labs Taken: Excel and Low-Code/No-Code Software for Entrepreneurship

While all of the Skills Labs are funded and staffed by the Bates Center and serve the Entrepreneurial Leadership and Innovation minor, the classes are open to any student regardless of major or minor.

“Our skills classes are an example of how we utilize our four pillars of mindset, skill sets, experiential, and network to provide context, opportunities, and pathways for our students,” says Hutchings. “These powerful skills complement the critical problem-solving skills of the liberal arts and prepare our graduates for the future.”

Bates Center

Current Skills Lab Courses

AI for Business

This hands-on course provides aspiring solo entrepreneurs and small business owners with practical AI skills to empower their future ventures. Students will gain working knowledge of leading AI tools to enhance marketing, design, analysis, and accounting as a lean start-up. Upon completion, students will have a toolkit of AI technologies to deploy when launching and scaling their own solo ventures in the future.

AI for Creatives

Students will use emerging technologies and learn design principles, techniques, and data synthesization, culminating in a project for an external client. At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to deliver custom visualizations using AI and the Adobe Creative Suite.

Data Visualization

Students develop a complementary skill through application of digital tools to solve problems raised in other liberal arts coursework, including topics and problems of students’ choosing. Digital tools may include ArcGIS StoryMaps, Excel, and data visualization software.


In the first half of the course, students will collaboratively build their Excel skills by working with real, de-identified L&C student data. In the second half, students will employ their newly developed skills to address actual problems and scenarios posed by a successful Portland business.