Go for the Bold: Building Effective Entrepreneurship Programs in Higher Education
Friday, September 18, 2009
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
E. Thomas, Ph.D.
Dakota County Technical College, Rosemount, MN
hurricanes, recessions spawn hardship, fear, and misery wherever their titanic
forces make land. No exception, the current recession has been historically
brutal, blasting the national unemployment rate to 8.9 percent as of April 2009
with 5.7 million jobs annihilated since December 2007. With job options
imploding, people are looking to become their own bosses, which has created a
booming shift toward entrepreneurship.
Kansas City, MO, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is the gold standard for
nonprofits focused on improving the national landscape for entrepreneurs.
Recently quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Bo Fishback, Kauffman’s vice
president of entrepreneurship, reported that a new surge of businesses will be
started by out-of-work people taking innovative paths to survival.
"Necessity-driven entrepreneurship can be a powerful motivator,” Fishback said.
education can make a massive difference by equipping future entrepreneurs with
the skills and knowledge to find traction and flourish. The stakes could not be
higher. A 2009 survey by the Kauffman Foundation indicates that any economic
recovery depends on entrepreneurial expansion. The survey showed that firms
five years old or younger were responsible for all net job growth in the U.S.
from 1980 to 2005. A full 70 percent of registered voters believe that
successful entrepreneurs are crucial to upending the recession. As educators,
we have made some progress, but our work is just beginning.
to a 2007 study conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana,
entrepreneurship education in America found a foothold in the early 1970s,
targeting credit and noncredit students along with potential and existing
small-business owners. Looking at roughly 1,200 technical and community
colleges in the U.S., the survey discovered that 14 percent offered an
associate degree in entrepreneurship with 19 percent offering a certificate.
Fifty-five percent offered entrepreneurship as continuing education with 20
percent hosting a Small Business Development Center.
M. Kuttler Jr., president of St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, FL.,
ranks entrepreneurship education at the top of his college’s list of
priorities. Kuttler has built a strong reputation as an "entrepreneurial”
president who works hard to establish partnerships with other colleges and
universities, businesses both local and national, and government bodies.
is the greatest stimulus for success,” he said. "An entrepreneurial spirit
moves countries, states, local government, businesses, professional
organizations and empowers leaders.”
presidents seeking to launch business entrepreneur courses and programs need to
fully understand what it means to be an entrepreneur. We should continue to
reflect as academicians, but with our intellects invigorated by key
entrepreneur is rooted in the Old French word entreprendre, which means "to
undertake.” That undertaking, or enterprise, carries an abstract meaning that
dates back to 1475. To be enterprising then and now is to advance with a
"spirit of daring” or "readiness to take on challenges.”
with that tradition, we must leverage our imaginations to think along new lines
while countering inevitable problems in novel ways. We must constantly ask
questions whose answers will give us the power to make informed decisions.
Gains will be minimal if we are hobbled by a systematic dread of making
triumphant entrepreneurs, we must trust our intuition and steel ourselves with
attitudes that are impenetrably positive. Staying tuned to the big picture, we
should allow the best of our staff to handle day-to-day details. Balance is
essential in planning our overall agendas as is tracking and comprehending high
technology, which will be evolving at a blistering pace in the coming decade.
entrepreneurial programs don’t just happen. Research, cooperation, and
innovation at every level are essential for success. This checklist will prove
useful for college presidents looking to take on the process.
sure you have secured the
wholehearted support of your
administration, staff, and faculty.
closely with area chambers
of commerce and banks as well as
local, county, and state governments
to maximize your resource base.
Assemble an influential, experienced,
and knowledgeable advisory board;
their input, guidance, and feedback
will be indispensable.
top-notch faculty with drive and
business savvy–preferably instructors
with in-depth experience creating
and running successful entrepreneurial
Formulate a flexible, student-friendly
curriculum, creating modules that
will attract students from across the
gamut of age, experience, and cultural
online combo programs that
mesh convenient e-learning with vital
face-to-face classroom time.
• Host a
Small Business Development
Center staffed by experts offering free
Energize and publicize your new
program with a concerted marketing
effort, marshaling the expertise
and cooperation of area businesses,
communities, and established
up with a potent networking
operation that connects your
program and its students to leaders
and organizations on local, regional, national, and global fronts.
cohesive and grow together;
enduring bonds formed between
faculty, students, alumni, area
businesses, and the community are
the hallmarks of the best and brightest
A. May, president of Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, WI, understands
the process of establishing a relevant and effective entrepreneurship program.
Her college’s own program is considered one of the best in the nation. "Today’s
community and technical college presidents really need to lead and engage
entrepreneurial efforts in two critical arenas,” May said. "First, by providing
prospective entrepreneurs and small businesses the education and training,
support services, and networking they will need to be successful. And secondly,
by creating and supporting an entrepreneurial culture within the college
itself, which can make a tremendous difference in an organization’s ability to
truly thrive and grow.”
to the immediate future, we can already see that assistance for small businesses
is on the way. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes loan fee
reductions, higher guarantees, secondary market incentives, and new Small
Business Administration programs that will help thaw credit markets for the
country’s small business sector.
administration believes that "economic recovery will be driven in large part by
America’s small businesses.” The facts are clear: small companies have created
70 percent of net new jobs annually over the last ten years—and jobs form the
bedrock of any viable economy.
heard the words: Fortune favors the bold. Based on a Latin proverb going back
to the Roman playwright Terence, the phrase promises that Fortuna, the Roman
goddess of luck, will always be inclined to help people who enhance their skill
sets proactively and take risks to improve their situations.
mission as educators is to deliver the tools and knowledge needed for
entrepreneurs and small-business owners to find their own fortune and, in turn,
reawaken and embolden the American dream. Our success, by and large, will
depend on the strength of our own entrepreneurial spirit.