New Educational Initiatives Fostering an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Thursday, September 25, 2014
An Entrepreneurial Mindset Feature

Exploring Opportunities: Students in Rose-Hulman's first-year ESCALATE program are learning to identify customer and market opportunities, develop innovative solutions, and build markets. (Photos by Dale Long)

Rose-Hulman is taking steps to encourage students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, preparation that will be important in a workplace that increasingly rewards individuals who can combine technical excellence with creative and innovative thinking.

Features of these intensified efforts include:

  • Being a select member of the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN program), through the Kern Family Foundation, whose goal is graduating engineers who will contribute to business success, and, in doing so, transform the American workforce.
  • Establishing a new entrepreneurship-focused living and learning community, called ESCALATE, supported by Lilly Endowment Inc., which builds students' ability to identify customer and market opportunities, develop innovative solutions, and capture value and build markets.
  • The creation of the institute's first Professor of Entrepreneurship and Professor of Practice, within the Department of Engineering Management.
  • Establishing entrepreneurship-focused internships, campus workshops, guest lectures, and information exchanges with entrepreneurs and small business executives.

"The world has changed and will change at an even faster pace in the future," says Tom Mason, PhD, emeritus professor of engineering management and economics. His course, "The Entrepreneur," continues to create a pathway for hundreds of Rose-Hulman graduates to be successful entrepreneurs. "The most technical decisions must be made with knowledge of how the organization's business model is creating value. Even in large firms, the short time to develop and deliver innovations requires that engineers understand the customers and how they are getting value, and be able to effectively deal with the business issues of providing that value."

Mason continues, "Invention and design are only as good as their application, and great execution demands thinking like that of an entrepreneur."

Producing Engineers with Curiosity and Purpose

The KEEN program's goal is to help selected private U.S. colleges produce graduates with the ability to exercise curiosity about the surrounding world; define problems, opportunities, and solutions in terms of value creation; assess risk; persist through and learn from failure; demonstrate resourcefulness; anticipate technical developments by interpreting surrounding societal and economic trends; and identify new business opportunities.

"Entrepreneurship is not a stand-alone entity, but an integrated part of the workplace," says Craig Downing, PhD, head of the Department of Engineering Management. "Rose-Hulman students are ideally positioned to take advantage of this type of mindset. They develop strong technical skills (in engineering, science, and math), and when they combine their technical expertise with skills in innovation and entrepreneurship, they are able to successfully address challenges and opportunities in a creative way."

Kline adds, "The entrepreneurial mindset develops curiosity that leads to identifying opportunities from unexpected sources that leads to creating something of benefit and value. It is an outlook on life that can be applied in any setting."

Basics of the entrepreneurial mindset are:

• Having an insatiable curiosity about our changing world

• Habitually integrating information from many sources to gain insight

• Identifying unexpected opportunities to create value-and learning through actions

A KEEN grant has helped Rose-Hulman implement aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset into faculty training, domain-specific courses, Operation Catapult summer STEM exploratory program for high school students, and Leadership Advancement Program for Rose-Hulman students. Also, case studies have been created to instill that entrepreneurial mindset.

"It's important that our students understand the business, legal, and social context in which engineering is practiced. Participation in the KEEN network enhances our ability to provide that understanding," states Dean of Faculty Richard Stamper, PhD.

Freshmen Begin New ESCALATE Adventures

An Entrepreneurial Mindset Group

Living And Learning Group: This year's freshman class features students in the new ESCALATE program. This living and learning community program will prepare students with a business awareness to become technical leaders in today's competitive global economy.

The entrepreneurial mindset is a critical competency of ESCALATE, a new living and learning community program that prepares students with a business awareness to become technical leaders in today's competitive global economy-whether in a new venture or established organization in Indiana.

Forty-five freshman students are participating in the ESCALATE program this school year. The program, supported by Lilly Endowment Inc., has several components, including:

• An entrepreneurial living and learning community for specially selected students.

• Curriculum components including design, communication, and entrepreneurship courses.

• Extracurricular activities, including the RISE student entrepreneurship club, workshops, and field trips.

• Internship opportunities at startup companies in Indiana or at Rose-Hulman Ventures.

• Personal attention from faculty/staff to inspire and guide student entrepreneurial interests.

• Collaboration and mentoring opportunities with entrepreneurs around the state.

"We want students to understand that they can pursue an entrepreneurial career in Indiana because the technology, resources, and culture are here and expanding," says Kline, who joins Downing as ESCALATE program co-directors.

Research suggests that students enrolled in living and learning communities find more meaning and satisfaction in their learning experiences, often leading to a better college experience. ESCALATE builds off the successful educational model of the institute's Home for Environmentally Responsible Engineers (HERE) program, which emphasizes sustainability issues.