Education students learn about improving diversity in entrepreneurship

Talia Potochny, a student in the EDUC 497: Accelerator Rap class, describes her final presentation. Credit: Jim Carlson / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students in Betsy Campbell’s EDUC 497: Accelerator Rap class were challenged to create informal learning materials to teach entrepreneurship basics to kids from non-dominant backgrounds – including girls, children of color, and children from working-class and rural backgrounds. 

The course is part of Campbell’s efforts to create an entrepreneurship and innovation minor in Penn State’s College of Education, and it is affiliated with The Cape at Penn State, a nationwide initiative focused on matters of diversity, inclusion and belonging in entrepreneurship. 

Education majors April Blackburn, Julie Branitsky and Qianzi Cong, as well as Talia Potochny, a geography major with an entrepreneurship and innovation minor in communications, presented their final projects in Krause Learning Space to interested onlookers who watched their 60- to 90-second productions of animations plus contemporary beats.

“I think Accelerator Rap was a fun course, but it was not an easy course. The students had a lot of learning to do,” Campbell said. “They had to master several entrepreneurial concepts. The first was the minimum viable product idea associated with 'The Lean Startup' approach. The second was the conversational competencies of entrepreneurial teamwork associated with 'The Innovator’s Discussion.'

“Beyond that, the students had to learn about the lack of diversity in high-tech, high-growth entrepreneurship; the structures of informal learning materials for children; the assessment criteria for educational media; the basics of songwriting and storyboarding; and the software to record lyrics, manipulate beats and render animation,” she said.

Campbell said the class was supported by faculty from the College of Arts and Architecture, College of Education and the College of the Liberal Arts.

“We embraced people’s talents from across the University in order to attend to the interdisciplinary learning goals,” Campbell said. “We also worked with young alumni. And we made use of the Adobe Creative Cloud.”

Campbell said the class was attending to issues of diversity, inclusion and belonging in entrepreneurship. 

“We want the kids who watch these pieces to see themselves in entrepreneurial work,” she said. “While the pieces needed to have visual appeal and a catchy sound, they ultimately needed to be educational. We want children who see the pieces to start to understand the real practices of entrepreneurial work, which differ from the stereotypes many people have, and we want them to start to imagine a role for themselves in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Potochny had some entrepreneurship background coming into this class and she said she had taken some management classes as well. “What I didn’t have was the diversity aspect of that,” said Potochny, who is from Hershey. “Looking back on my other experiences with entrepreneurship, all of those classes were taught by white males, which is the stereotype we’ve been talking about this whole course.

“One thing I learned is how I can apply this to what I want to do in the future. My research in geography is virtual augmented reality. Using these tools to make the drawings and apply that to virtual spaces will relate to my future and learning about diversity will be important in whatever job I end up in. I learned a lot from this class … very cool, different from what I’m used to,” she said.

Here is an example of some of Potochny’s lyrics, highlighting the collaborative, provisional and reflective conversational moves that are essential to entrepreneurial teamwork:

C- Collaborative
New perspective
Use we … us
When we discuss
Share the venture
For an adventure.

P- Provisional
Might we?
Could we?
We’ll see.

R- reflective
Don’t be bitter
That’s who we are.

Branitsky, an education public policy major from Washington, D.C., said the pieces they presented all highlighted the conversational competencies in entrepreneurship.

“We took all of that knowledge and learned how to write song lyrics and how to create music and how to make storyboards and animation, and from there to be able to put all of our skills that we gathered together and put it forward into a final product.”

Cong, from China, said she used to be scared of failure. “I learned not only that the concept of entrepreneurship includes lots of little failures before getting to success, but also that I can apply this to my own life. And entrepreneurship also can promote social justice. Things we do can help people who are not really being seen or heard and we can encourage them to become entrepreneurs if they want to.”

Blackburn also said practicing the conversational competencies was helpful in her personal projects. “Working with your team as long as you’re listening to them and you’re working together, you’re going to make something that’s really, really great and what the customer wants,” she said. 

In addition to the individual pieces that were presented, the class worked on several shared pieces. The shared works will be the focus of an independent study that Campbell will lead next semester. In the spring, the pieces will be tested to see if they influence the ideas children have about entrepreneurial work.

More information about research, courses and tools that address matters of diversity, inclusion and belonging in entrepreneurship can be found on the website for The Cape at Penn State

Last Updated September 03, 2020