North Iowa Area Community College, Mason City, IA
When considering education on entrepreneurship, community colleges need to consider the broader perspective of entrepreneurship. There are many constituencies to whom we must provide education, insight and support. At North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC), the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) is focused on three important areas, one being of course, Entrepreneurship Education. And yes, we have traditional courses for classic students and for continuing education type students as well. However, our charge is much broader than that and we would submit, so should yours.
We have an obligation to "educate” the citizens of our North Iowa region on the value and practical implications of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial support. At NIACC we have focused time and energy on educating elected officials and we do that in many ways. We have held private meetings with elected officials to help them understand the role of entrepreneurship in economic development. We have provided training in communities for both entrepreneurs and for elected officials. We have encouraged communities to become more entrepreneurial and assisted in that effort through lectures, training and, in some cases, funding of specific events to support entrepreneurial activities.
We believe education does not stop at the classroom door but must be an integral component of everyday life of an entrepreneurial center, taking place in the communities and for a broad constituency group. We have held several Elected Officials Symposiums on Entrepreneurship in North Iowa, attracting over 100 elected officials to come learn and hear success stories about entrepreneurial communities elsewhere in the U.S. We have sponsored speakers that bring important messages on how to build an entrepreneurial culture in their communities or how to reinvigorate a community or area that has suffered from plant closings and neglect, like the Appalachian region of Ohio. June Holly, Co-founder and CEO of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, Athens Ohio, was one such speaker bringing a different perspective and challenging our elected officials with new ideas and opportunities.
These efforts at educating the public must be part of a strategy to reach and expand upon the existing entrepreneurial environment that exists in a region, and it should be a focus of each community college that has an entrepreneurial program. Community colleges have a vested interest in the growth and prosperity of their regions, let alone an expectation to support the training and growth of businesses in their areas. Elected Officials Symposiums on Entrepreneurship is one way to help lay the groundwork for entrepreneurial support and growth. Entrepreneurship matters regardless of the focus or the "student.”