Students

The Real Test

StudentsAs Program Coordinator Joe Roberts discovered, students were eager for the learning opportunities provided by Project Directors and Fellows. “Listen, it’s not about us,” he said. “It’s about the success of students. The students were already thinking about entrepreneurship. We were talking about doing this and doing that. The students were saying, ‘Hey, guys, whether you do it or not, I’m already there.’”

Entrepreneurship education expanded horizons for students, as demonstrated by the experience of Todd Alexander, a Ph.D. student at Worcester Polytechnic Institution. “Typically, people only see two paths in science: academia or industry,” says Alexander. “The courses that included entrepreneurship were not designed to encourage everyone to become selfemployed, but to challenge the idea of binary options.”

Alexander is developing antimicrobials to combat antibiotic resistance. He has been influenced by Fellow Glenn Gaudette and Project Director Frank Hoy, who co-taught a number of classes that combined science with entrepreneurship and occasionally brought in local entrepreneurs, who added to students’ skills and confidence.

Alexander said he had not planned to be an entrepreneur, but Gaudette, who had his own business, “brought an enthusiasm that made it possible for me to be enthusiastic too.” In 2016, he and a colleague began AMProtection, a business based on a novel microbial technology. They secured grants and won competitions, but were forced to close after two years due to a timing issue with funding. “Without the classes, I don’t know if I would have had the knowledge or the courage to try. I learned that failure is okay, and it’s okay to take risks.” Alexander said he plans to start up another venture in the future. “That was my first company, not my last company.”

Alexander is an example of a student whose entrepreneurship education led him to business creation. As noted earlier, the age group least likely to be business owners are adults under 35. This fact makes it difficult to quantify the short-term impact of entrepreneurship education, since a longer timeline and purposeful tracking would be needed to truly evaluate results. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that some students find self-employment a compelling option even before graduation. Gina Betti at Worcester Polytechnic comments: “When you hear an engineering student talk about value creation, or a science student talk about intellectual property, they’re starting to speak our language and we’re starting to understand the confines and the constraints in which they operate. We’ve lowered fear of business. We’ve really increased respect for self-employment.”

Project Directors and Fellows described a continuum of student engagement:

  • At one end of the continuum are the many students who participated in a single entrepreneurship-infused course or campus entrepreneurial event. The dance student quoted above reflects how one class influenced her thinking about entrepreneurship and her hopes for her career. Another student who participated in many of Sridhar Condoor’s Innovation Challenges at Saint Louis University reports using innovative thinking techniques in her post-graduate work with Teach for America and her current job with a new charter school network, and daydreaming about possible future selfemployment. Will these hopes translate into business creation? Time will tell. If they do, the former students will bring basic knowledge and skills to the challenge.
  • At the next level of engagement are students who took multiple courses in which entrepreneurship intersected with their area of study. Some of these students, including Alexander, developed a business. He is committed to re-engage as a future entrepreneur, and will be able to draw on what he learned from his first efforts, which were informed by his coursework, professors, and entrepreneur guest speakers. Another indicator of this level of interest is reflected in students who asked faculty to design a new class that would focus on specific aspects of entrepreneurship in their fields. As Julie Shields, Project Director at Millikin University, put it, “We’ve experienced students driving curriculum now, which is kind of a cool story.” For these students, seeking deeper education shows more developed interest in becoming an entrepreneur, during or following college.
  • At the far end of the engagement continuum, some students sought out exceptional opportunities for hands-on learning and coaching. Examples include an internship begun by Project Director Michael Sherrod for students to work with startup entrepreneurs at business incubators in Dallas and Fort Worth. When seed funding from the Foundation ended, the experiment had proven so popular that Texas Christian University picked up the ongoing cost of stipends and administration. Another advanced education option was the Student Fellows program launched by Timothy Stearns at California State University, Fresno. The project included a handful of students per semester who were in the process of creating a business, usually with a prototype. Stearns noted that, “It helped students move forward and connected the faculty Fellows directly to the entrepreneurship project.” These students were early entrepreneurs.

Sridhar Condoor, a Fellow in the School of Engineering at Saint Louis University, comments that “the real beneficiary is the students. The next generation graduating is much more entrepreneurially minded. They have a better sense of the value proposition, which will help them launch better. Their future economic impact may not be quantifiable, but it will be significant.”

Project Director Dianne Welsh at University of North Carolina at Greensboro projected even further into the future:

The Fellows Program has changed lives and will make generational differences for families. Many will be self-employed, and will create businesses that will hire others. Families in Greensboro have worked in mills and tobacco – they never went to college and they never had their own business. If not for the Coleman Fellows, kids would never have their own business. But former students have created businesses: selling guitars, putting out a shingle for management consulting, and opening an athletic clothing business.

The Real Test

Students

StudentsAs Program Coordinator Joe Roberts discovered, students were eager for the learning opportunities provided by Project Directors and Fellows. “Listen, it’s not about us,” he said. “It’s about the success of students. The students were already thinking about entrepreneurship. We were talking about doing this and doing that. The students were saying, ‘Hey, guys, whether you do it or not, I’m already there.’”

Entrepreneurship education expanded horizons for students, as demonstrated by the experience of Todd Alexander, a Ph.D. student at Worcester Polytechnic Institution. “Typically, people only see two paths in science: academia or industry,” says Alexander. “The courses that included entrepreneurship were not designed to encourage everyone to become selfemployed, but to challenge the idea of binary options.”

Alexander is developing antimicrobials to combat antibiotic resistance. He has been influenced by Fellow Glenn Gaudette and Project Director Frank Hoy, who co-taught a number of classes that combined science with entrepreneurship and occasionally brought in local entrepreneurs, who added to students’ skills and confidence.

Alexander said he had not planned to be an entrepreneur, but Gaudette, who had his own business, “brought an enthusiasm that made it possible for me to be enthusiastic too.” In 2016, he and a colleague began AMProtection, a business based on a novel microbial technology. They secured grants and won competitions, but were forced to close after two years due to a timing issue with funding. “Without the classes, I don’t know if I would have had the knowledge or the courage to try. I learned that failure is okay, and it’s okay to take risks.” Alexander said he plans to start up another venture in the future. “That was my first company, not my last company.”

Alexander is an example of a student whose entrepreneurship education led him to business creation. As noted earlier, the age group least likely to be business owners are adults under 35. This fact makes it difficult to quantify the short-term impact of entrepreneurship education, since a longer timeline and purposeful tracking would be needed to truly evaluate results. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that some students find self-employment a compelling option even before graduation. Gina Betti at Worcester Polytechnic comments: “When you hear an engineering student talk about value creation, or a science student talk about intellectual property, they’re starting to speak our language and we’re starting to understand the confines and the constraints in which they operate. We’ve lowered fear of business. We’ve really increased respect for self-employment.”

Project Directors and Fellows described a continuum of student engagement:

  • At one end of the continuum are the many students who participated in a single entrepreneurship-infused course or campus entrepreneurial event. The dance student quoted above reflects how one class influenced her thinking about entrepreneurship and her hopes for her career. Another student who participated in many of Sridhar Condoor’s Innovation Challenges at Saint Louis University reports using innovative thinking techniques in her post-graduate work with Teach for America and her current job with a new charter school network, and daydreaming about possible future selfemployment. Will these hopes translate into business creation? Time will tell. If they do, the former students will bring basic knowledge and skills to the challenge.
  • At the next level of engagement are students who took multiple courses in which entrepreneurship intersected with their area of study. Some of these students, including Alexander, developed a business. He is committed to re-engage as a future entrepreneur, and will be able to draw on what he learned from his first efforts, which were informed by his coursework, professors, and entrepreneur guest speakers. Another indicator of this level of interest is reflected in students who asked faculty to design a new class that would focus on specific aspects of entrepreneurship in their fields. As Julie Shields, Project Director at Millikin University, put it, “We’ve experienced students driving curriculum now, which is kind of a cool story.” For these students, seeking deeper education shows more developed interest in becoming an entrepreneur, during or following college.
  • At the far end of the engagement continuum, some students sought out exceptional opportunities for hands-on learning and coaching. Examples include an internship begun by Project Director Michael Sherrod for students to work with startup entrepreneurs at business incubators in Dallas and Fort Worth. When seed funding from the Foundation ended, the experiment had proven so popular that Texas Christian University picked up the ongoing cost of stipends and administration. Another advanced education option was the Student Fellows program launched by Timothy Stearns at California State University, Fresno. The project included a handful of students per semester who were in the process of creating a business, usually with a prototype. Stearns noted that, “It helped students move forward and connected the faculty Fellows directly to the entrepreneurship project.” These students were early entrepreneurs.

Sridhar Condoor, a Fellow in the School of Engineering at Saint Louis University, comments that “the real beneficiary is the students. The next generation graduating is much more entrepreneurially minded. They have a better sense of the value proposition, which will help them launch better. Their future economic impact may not be quantifiable, but it will be significant.”

Project Director Dianne Welsh at University of North Carolina at Greensboro projected even further into the future:

The Fellows Program has changed lives and will make generational differences for families. Many will be self-employed, and will create businesses that will hire others. Families in Greensboro have worked in mills and tobacco – they never went to college and they never had their own business. If not for the Coleman Fellows, kids would never have their own business. But former students have created businesses: selling guitars, putting out a shingle for management consulting, and opening an athletic clothing business.

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