Known as the Community College Entrepreneurial Pathway project, the program unites 10 community colleges with the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at California State University, Fresno. The Pathway is an effort to build curricula, classroom content, and community support for the delivery of knowledge, skills, and actions for students seeking self-employment.
The program is the brainchild of Timothy Stearns, Coleman Foundation Chair in Entrepreneurial Studies at the Lyles Center. “Two fundamental considerations led me to the Pathway model,” he says. “First, we are a center of entrepreneurship and innovation that is focused on the Central Valley, which is a very large footprint of 100 miles in length. We have been trying to find ways to reach into communities outside of Fresno to provide programs and foster development for entrepreneurs. Having had opportunities to work with community colleges, including several in the valley, I began to realize they provided an excellent platform for engaging with people to reach into the community to foster more and more entrepreneurial opportunities.
“The second factor was that about 35 or 40 percent of our students are transfers from community colleges,” Stearns adds. “I was getting a number of transfers into my Entrepreneurship program, but there was a real mix in the types of skills and knowledge that they were bringing with them. I was interested in getting more uniformity in the message that would make these students much better when they got into the Fresno State program.”
Funded with just over $300,000 from the Coleman Foundation, the Pathways program began by identifying and supporting Coleman Scholars on community college campuses. These faculty members are the driving force behind the development and nurturing of entrepreneurship programs on their individual campuses.
The program has met its goal of putting Coleman Scholars in place at 10 community colleges. Through their collaboration – which includes nine group meetings per year to share best practices and other information – they are laying the foundation for a network of courses and programs that will form a consistent entrepreneurship pathway across the campuses. Coleman Scholars undergo National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) training and must attend the NACCE conference annually during the three-year program.
Program Director Marianne Dunklin has been in charge of recruiting the Coleman Scholars. “The program has been very positively received on the campuses,” she says. “The people who tend to teach entrepreneurship education at community colleges are really interested in making a difference in the lives of their students and entrepreneurship is a way to do that.”
“Becoming a Coleman Scholar attracted me because it was an opportunity to work closely with faculty from similar institutions on a subject about which I am very excited,” says Eric Nasalroad, Coleman Scholar at Reedley Community College. “Not only was it a medium for developing best practices and for gaining insight, it also provided a network of individuals who provided accountability and support. At Reedley, we have developed an Intro. to Entrepreneurship class, a CEO club, a Certificate in Entrepreneurship, articulated our intro class with Fresno State, and generated entrepreneurship ‘buzz' on campus. We are currently developing an Entrepreneurship Center in hopes of launching an incubator in the future. Our outreach to high school and to disciplines other than business has increased dramatically. These things would not have been possible without the guidance, accountability, and support that comes with being a Coleman Scholar.”
A Moveable Model
The Coleman Foundation is pleased with the progress they've seen in the California program and is already beginning work in Chicago that is loosely based on the Pathways program. “There will be tweaks and modifications as necessary for the unique aspects of the geography as the model is put into use in other parts of the country,” says Coleman Foundation Program Manager Clark McCain. “But in broad strokes being able to connect a four-year school, a community college and high schools is a good model that can take a variety of forms.
“We are very supportive of making these connections between community colleges either upstream or downstream,” he adds. “We want people to know that there is an interest at the four-year setting in what happens at the two-year setting. It's important to communicate that there are four-year schools out there that have an interest in working with people at community colleges.”
For additional information on the Community College Entrepreneurial Pathway, contact Genelle Taylor, associate director of the Lyles Center, at (559) 294-2045 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.