Growth of Entrepreneurship in Higher Ed

Deshpande Symposium

Last week I attended the 6th annual Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education. The event, co-sponsored by UMass Lowell and the Deshpande Foundation, brought together like-minded practitioners focused on accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship across the college and university landscape. It was a collection of thought-leaders, campus staff, and education entrepreneurs all focused on the WHAT, HOW and WHY of entrepreneurship education.

Some Symposium Highlights from Keynote Speaker, Jerry Engel, a leader in entrepreneurship education at UC Berkeley:

  • Entrepreneurship is ubiquitous in our society. Over the last 30 years there's been a major uptick in entrepreneurship and its become an accepted social value. 
  • There are many opportunities to embed more entrepreneurship and innovation on a campus including majors and minors, clubs, competitions, accelerator/incubator spaces and increased focus on experiential learning (more on this juicy topic in a future article).
  • Entrepreneurship is a critical like skill. Students need to learn how create their own job (Check out JobHack, a free online entrepreneurship challenge that teachers you the practical skills of creating your own job).
  • Social media has led to disruption because no one is in charge. Disruption equals opportunity.
  • There is increased demand for Social Entrepreneurship.
  • Entrepreneurship happens in clusters, which requires people that are engaged in the ecosystem and companies that don't fit traditional molds.
  • The Innovation Process is available to all of us.
  • A key challenge for higher ed institutions, which have traditionally been centers of research, is finding ways to stimulate commercialization of these ideas.
  • Startup success is not defined by getting Venture Capital funding. There are plenty of great businesses that aren't appropriate for this kind of scale and financial backing.

Why this Matters:

There are many opinions on WHAT, HOW and WHY we educate students. One, of many, reasons is to help prepare them for their future career(s) so they can live independent and productive lives. The Deshpande Symposium reinforced for me that colleges are slowly, yet surely, recognizing that preparing students to think and act like entrepreneurs (or intrapreneurs) is a key role of their institution. In fact, there's been a dramatic increase in Entrepreneurship Education and Training (EET) courses on college campuses (TechCrunch article, "How Colleges are Becoming Entrepreneurial"). And, when colleges adapt, that gradually trickles down to our high schools and middle schools. As a proponent of entrepreneurship education, this is great news...but also leads to more questions.

What does quality entrepreneurship education look and feel like?

Turns out, there's lots of debate over how best to teach entrepreneurship education (although we have moved on from the question of whether or not you CAN teach people to be entrepreneurs - it's a yes). There are many different EET theories, and a "great lack of knowledge on which interventions and approaches work best for their given context and aims" (read more from The Kauffman Foundation's "Entrepreneurship Education and Training Blog").

Kauffman Logo

But all hope is not lost as The Kauffman Foundation, a leader for entrepreneurship education and resources, is on the case! The organization is focused on strengthening EET by identifying core outcomes (mindsets, capabilities, status and performance) to determine best practices in program characteristics, context and participations, as well as evaluate impact. The goal is to understand more about the WHAT, HOW and WHY, in order to scale high quality EET for everyone. 

Entrepreneurship Education and Training in Boston:

As one of the US's Innovation Hubs, Boston-based colleges and universities have clearly drank the EET Kool-Aid. Each campus has its own unique entrepreneurship flavor and focus, and many efforts are being made to create more cross-pollination of students and programs. Take a look at SOME of the schools and their different approaches to entrepreneurship and innovation. 

Map of Boston Colleges

Babson College: the educator, convener and thought-leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds.
Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship: the epicenter of entrepreneurial activity at Babson.

Berklee College of Music: the premier music college and performing arts conservatory.
Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship: a space for mentorship and development of new ideas.

Boston College: a leader in the liberal arts, scientific inquiry, and student formation.
Shea Center for Entrepreneurship: integrating entrepreneurial thinking into the education and formational experiences of undergraduate and graduate students.

Boston University: a leading private research institution with two primary campuses in the heart of Boston and programs around the world.
BuZZ Lab: home to entrepreneurship programs, student clubs and BU students/alumni startups.

Harvard University: devoted to excellence in teaching, learning, and research, and to developing leaders in many disciplines who make a difference globally.
Innovation Lab: fosters innovation and entrepreneurship across Harvard.

MIT: advancing knowledge and educating students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world.
Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship: teaching people how to create companies.

Northeastern University: a global, experiential, research university built on a tradition of engagement with the world, creating a distinctive approach to education.
IDEA: Northeastern University's student-led Venture Accelerator.

Olin College: a new kind of engineering college.
The Olin Foundry: working to foster and promote entrepreneurship through education, experience and employment opportunities.

Tufts University: a premier university dedicated to educating new leaders for a changing world.
Gordon Institute: part of the School of Engineering that aims to foster and inspire individuals to become leaders that can address the challenges of the 21st century.

UMass Lowell: a national research university committed to preparing students for work in the real world - solving real problems and helping real people - by providing affordable, high-quality education.
Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship: offers start up labs and space, idea competitions and resources that help inventors bring ideas to market.