Entrepreneurship Education Comes of Age on Campus

Two white papers feature diverse examples of university entrepreneurship instruction helping students solve real-world problems.

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.

The paper also notes that entrepreneurship, one of the fastest-growing subjects in today's undergraduate curricula, has moved from the margins of higher education to the mainstream. Entrepreneurship has, on a variety of campuses, taken on a wider definition than startups and venture funding, though opportunities for students to develop their entrepreneurial acumen abound on campuses across the country.

The report discusses a wide range of issues related to the implementation of entrepreneurship programs on campus. It highlights the rich variety of ways in which universities craft curricular and co-curricular offerings and how they develop activities that balance learning and doing. The report lists the benefits of melding universities with outside communities through mentorship networks and other programs. The report also highlights the challenging issue of measuring progress, affirming their commitment to crafting meaningful learning opportunities for their students.

The paper recommends these strategies 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 included 18 universities.

Through Kauffman Campuses, entrepreneurship courses and co-curricular activities reached students who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to consider how to apply entrepreneurial problem-solving skills, innovative thinking and value creation to their particular fields. The white paper observes that campus leaders and professors found that teaching students these lessons had a transformative effect on how they see their mission, and, as one campus put it, how they can "prepare students for the rest of their lives – and their lives at work."

The Kauffman Campus paper draws on 16 reflective essays submitted by campus leadership and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation in 2012. In addition to expressing the rich experiences that the students and faculty shared as a result of the Kauffman Campuses grants, the essays detail a treasure trove of programs and initiatives on the campuses and "new avenues through which the faculty has expanded and sharpened both its scholarly and entrepreneurial practices," as one essay put it. Outcomes range from establishing "entrepreneurship as a cultural value, not a goal or outcome," to creating student venture funds, launching global entrepreneurship partnerships and starting entrepreneur centers, to name a few. All the campus essay authors agreed thathey have established a foundation for the future of entrepreneurship on their campuses and in their communities.