Key Models of Effective Entrepreneurship Education

Since the 1970s, U.S. productivity and employment growth has become reliant on the development of new ventures, particularly in emerging technology industries. New businesses are equally crucial for the sustained economic development of the world's emerging regions. In developing economies, the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) estimates that 86 percent of new jobs are created by small/ growing businesses. In both developed and emerging economies, a culture that encourages risk taking and creativity and a supportive educational and policy structure are essential to entrepreneurial growth and prosperity.

Reflecting this economic transformation, U.S. universities, in turn, have initiated the development of various approaches to entrepreneurship education as a new academic discipline. The emergence of entrepreneurship as a university discipline is significant since colleges and universities are where young people from throughout the world converge to learn and shape their destinies. Judith Cone from the Kauffman Foundation states that the campus is, “where all fields can intersect and cross-pollinate- … and where all sectors of the real-world economy are represented. Private firms and investors, government agencies, and nonprofits all come to campus to sponsor research, to breed and recruit talent, to search for new ideas”. These academic ideas and models for entrepreneurship study and support can ultimately impact the models and policy approaches towards entrepreneurship throughout the emerging world.  

Although entrepreneurship is considered a relatively new discipline in U.S. higher education, it is now an accepted paradigm that designing and creating a new enterprise is significantly different than managing an established concern. Peter Drucker stated in his 1985 book Innovation and Entrepreneurship, "Entrepreneurship is 'risky' mainly because so few of the so-called entrepreneurs know what they are doing. They lack the methodology.” Higher education has embraced the idea of entrepreneurship education and of teaching the skills necessary for conceiving and starting an enterprise as compared to managing an on-going business concern.

Today, according to the Kauffman Foundation, approximately 1300 colleges and universities in the United States now offer a course in entrepreneurship. Many of these universities have developed innovative and collaborative models for entrepreneurship education that include: non-degree programs and certificates; degree programs; centers; student living environments that create an organic and full entrepreneurship ecosystem and international partners and outreach. Each of these models has subsets of exploration such as technology, social, and global entrepreneurship. Below, we describe examples of some of the above models.

Model Entrepreneurship Programs

Center Based Model : Technology entrepreneurship programs focus on the collaboration among business, engineering, and science schools within a university. They include certificate programs in entrepreneurship for graduate science students in addition to undergraduate and graduate degree programs in entrepreneurship typically offered through the business school. A university usually designates an entrepreneurship center to manage this collaboration. For example, at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship (CITE) brings together the College of Business and the College of Engineering in order to foster the growth of new technology-based ventures. CITE offers a combination of education, experiences, resources and support, which materialize in the form of courses and seminars, hands-on activities, projects, internships and the $100k Student Technology Venture Competition. This biannual competition provides hands-on experience in business development for teams of senior students from the Colleges of Business and Engineering. The engineering students develop the technology and construct a prototype while the business students evaluate the commercial potential and create a business plan. All teams are assisted by faculty and community mentors. Uniquely among undergraduate competitions, the program requires a complete working prototype and is therefore more than a business plan competition. Since the creation of CITE in 2006, 580 students comprising 91 teams have participated in the competition, culminating in 78 final team presentations.

The Entrepreneurship Eco-System Model: An innovative model created by Baylor University offers an individualized entrepreneurship curriculum supported by the Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Program (ENT-LLC). Baylor created a housing option specifically for students with a common interest in innovation and entrepreneurship in order to help them “to more fully develop their entrepreneurial capabilities by offering mentoring between upperclassmen and freshmen, accessibility of faculty, discussion groups, lab support and opportunities to work with practicing entrepreneurs.” The Baylor Angel Network (BAN), a student-run investor network, provides early-stage capital to entrepreneurs with developed business plans.

The Externally Based Model:  The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship is devoted to the support of technology commercialization, entrepreneurship education, and the launch of technology companies. In this model, business plan competitions form the center of gravity where entrepreneurship education and external funding intersect. The model was formed in 2001 as a strategic alliance of three schools — the George R. Brown School of Engineering, the Wiess School of Natural Sciences and the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business— along with the participation of executive and roundtable advisory boards; sponsors representing national venture capital funds and venture angel networks; and technology, legal, and banking consulting groups. The Alliance programs culminate in a business plan competition which brings together collegiate entrepreneurs to compete in front of 250 judges for over $1.3 million in enterprise funding. Of the 354 past competitors, 199 teams went on to launch their companies after competing at the Rice Business Plan Competition. Of these companies, 128 have been successful and are in business today (or had successful exits). RBPC alumni companies have raised more than $460 million in early-stage funding.

The Comprehensive Model: The most widely recognized entrepreneurship model is found at Babson College. All aspects of Babson’s ecosystem are focused on entrepreneurship education from degree programs to dedicated centers to experiential learning. The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship “focuses on expanding the practice of Entrepreneurship of All Kinds™ through innovative curricular programs and global collaborative research initiatives that inspire and inform Entrepreneurial Thought and Action®”. The Center includes the John E. and Alice L. Butler Venture Accelerator, an institution composed of over a dozen student-run entrepreneurship organizations and forums. These “support and advance student entrepreneurial businesses in each phase of their startup venture, from opportunity exploration and pursuit with an action plan to the ultimate launch.”

Global Models: Some universities have expanded their domestic entrepreneurship programs to include a global component. Some have developed partnerships with overseas universities while others have developed in-country programs. Babson, for example, has developed the Babson- Rwanda Entrepreneurship Program to strengthen the country’s entrepreneurial environment. Also, the Babson Entrepreneurial Leadership Academies educate entrepreneurial leaders by bringing volunteer teams of students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents, and friends to various countries. These one-week programs train about 100 high school students in each country.

Another global example is University of Texas at San Antonio’s (UTSA) Center for Global Entrepreneurship, which seeks to meet the educational and career needs of emerging market entrepreneurs and those who support them via program collaborations, student exchanges, short programs, and research. The Center focuses on improving the prospects for growth-oriented, globally competitive entrepreneurship in emerging and transitional markets through practice-oriented graduate management education and research. The Institute for Economic Development at UTSA created the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Expansion Initiative with a USAID Mexico TIES project between UTSA and the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara. Today UTSA has conducted 11 SBDC Counselor & Director Certificate Training Programs that have trained over 1,300 professionals from all over Mexico. As a result of this project, 108 Mexican SBDCs were formed and the Mexican Association of SBDCs (AMCDPE) was organized. Since its inception, the expansion has included El Salvador, Central America, Caribbean nations, and next the South American nations of Colombia and Peru. In April of 2012, President Obama announced the creation of The Small Business Network of the Americas initiative, which builds upon UTSA’s work to extend the SBDC Network across the Western Hemisphere. The goal of the Expansion Initiative is to create a network of sustainable and successful small business assistance networks based on the US Small Business Development Center model. UTSA provides expert guidance for each country on small to medium-sized enterprises (SME) policy development, trains future SBDC professionals, hosts observational visits to San Antonio, develops accreditation standards, creates associations of SBDCs and conducts operational improvement visits.

In summary, U.S. academic institutions have developed various models for delivering entrepreneurship education. Although some of these models overlap and educational innovations constantly emerge, each has a distinctive focus that contributes to the continued growth and maturation of entrepreneurship as a major discipline in American higher education and whose impact contributes directly to economic productivity and employment. The future impact of these educational enterprises both domestically and internationally requires: knowledge sharing and networking; development of early career aspirations; metrics and evaluation; research and aggregated analysis of impacts; domestic and emerging economy entrepreneurial experiences; advocacy to key domestic and international constituencies — investors, governments, multi/bilateral organizations, and the media; and funding.

Lynda de la Viña is the Peter Flawn Professor of Economics & Entrepreneurship and Director of the Center for Global Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Works Cited

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