Entrepreneurship Education Breaks Out of B-School

For years, lectures and programs on entrepreneurship in American campuses were confined to its business schools—but times have changed and entrepreneurship education is fully in the mainstream. A couple of recent white papers from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation demonstrate how these programs now reach students in disciplines across the curriculum, teaching them how to become innovative problem solvers, whether or not they ever start a business.

The first paper “Entrepreneurship Education Comes of Age on Campus” is a qualitative report on a gathering of educators from 16 institutions with notable entrepreneurship education programs – including some who participated in the Kauffman Campuses Initiative, which encouraged interdisciplinary entrepreneurship education programs – to discuss common practices and challenges.

“We’ve learned that students across a range of disciplines can benefit from entrepreneurial course offerings,” said Wendy Torrance, director of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. “Entrepreneurship education teaches students how to identify and solve problems, and it provides the knowledge and skills needed to create new ventures.”

So what can a school do to create a campus culture that fosters effective entrepreneurship education?

  • Democratize ownership. This strategy allows schools and departments to “adopt, define and own concepts of entrepreneurship and programs themselves.”
  • Blend funding. This allows for university general funds and money raised from other sources to be combined.
  • Ensure the support of deans. A critical element of the entrepreneurial education program’s success at Rice University, for example, has been participation from the deans of engineering, science and business, along with the Vice Provost for Research and Technology Transfer.
  • Cultivate university champions. Support from the top is crucial, and “the evangelism of a university president gives a program more clout within the university and more credibility outside,” the paper said.
  • Talk it up. Universities must raise entrepreneurship programs’ visibility. As one educator put it, “Talk about it again and again, everywhere.”
  • Combat stereotypes of entrepreneurship. Universities must show what entrepreneurship means in various contexts and discuss it in terms such as innovation and independence, which might appeal to students in a range of disciplines.

The second white paper, “Entrepreneurial Campuses: Action, Impact, and Lessons Learned from the Kauffman Campus Initiative,” assesses the activity and lessons shared by the educators and leaders on Kauffman Campuses and other entrepreneurial schools around the country. The now-concluded program brought entrepreneurship courses and co-curricular activities to students of all academic disciplines—not just those in business school—to help them apply entrepreneurial problem-solving skills, innovative thinking and value creation to their particular fields.

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