Academics

Penn State awarded for entrepreneurship education efforts

The Center for Penn State Student Entrepreneurship was recognized for entrepreneurship across academic disciplines

Students and entrepreneurship educators interact during Startup Week 2019. Credit: Rick BrandtAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Center for Penn State Student Entrepreneurship (CPSSE) recently earned an award from an international organization of university educators and leaders for promoting entrepreneurship activity and education across the entire University.

Each year, the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers (GCEC) gathers to collaborate and share best practices among its 250 international university-based entrepreneurship programs. This year’s annual conference on Oct. 29 and 30 (held virtually) saw CPSSE awarded first place in the category “Exceptional Activities in Entrepreneurship Across Disciplines.” CPSSE was a finalist in the same category in 2019.

CPSSE was created by a multidisciplinary faculty team in 2009 to give students easier access to entrepreneurship learning, no matter their major or college. Over the last four years, approximately 8,500 students from 133 majors have enrolled in at least one course offered from the Center’s Intercollege Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ENTI).

“We’ve had great success in achieving our vision for the Center and the minor — entrepreneurship education for students in all disciplines and fields,” said Rob Pangborn, vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education. “I congratulate faculty members from a dozen colleges and campuses whose effort has been recognized in the GCEC award for Exceptional Activities in Entrepreneurship Across Disciplines.”

The ENTI minor has grown to 10 tracks, or “clusters,” each overseen by a faculty member from that cluster’s discipline. Students in the ENTI minor all take a core set of courses, followed by a specialized selection of courses in their specific cluster for a total of 18-20 credits. A total of 804 students have completed the minor over the course of eight years. The ENTI minor also features a host of cocurricular programs — under the umbrella of Lion LaunchPad — such as a dorm makerspace, access to competitions, hackathons, micro-grants and seminars with expert speakers.

Anne Hoag, director of CPSSE, said the program and its faculty have cultivated a diverse set of stakeholders and supporters across the University such as Invent Penn State, University Libraries, Student Affairs, advising centers, IT and artificial intelligence units, Career Services and student clubs.

The center also draws support from beyond Penn State, including engaged alumni entrepreneurs, local media and local schools. The center provides teaching and learning support to faculty wishing to teach entrepreneur courses or add entrepreneurship learning goals to their courses.

“Penn State is unrivaled when it comes to entrepreneurship and innovation (E&I) education for every student in every major at every campus," said Hoag. "Thanks to a faculty body spread across multiple departments and campuses, 76,000 undergraduates have access to E&I classes."

Educators from many academic disciplines at Penn State say that entrepreneurship skills can benefit students.

Robert Beaury, assistant teaching professor in the College of Engineering, was instrumental in starting the ENTI program.

“One of the founding principles of what was then called the ‘Engineering Entrepreneurship Program’ was that it be open to students from all of the different colleges of Penn State,” he said. “We wanted our students to have real-world experiences, whether it be in a startup or an established organization, and that could only be accomplished by having them work with teammates who represented many different educational disciplines.”

Beatrice Sirakaya was the latest cluster director to join ENTI when the Bio-Tech cluster was approved in 2019. Sirakaya, an assistant teaching professor in the Eberly College of Science, said entrepreneurship education nurtures much-needed soft skills to complement students’ technical knowledge.

“The entrepreneurial mindset gives students interested in the life and physical sciences the much needed competitive edge in their future endeavors,” she said. “Innovative thinking, leadership skills and management and planning tools are all necessary ingredients for these students to succeed in their chosen path after graduation, be it in the corporate world or in academia."

In journalism, an industry that has seen a decline in ad revenues for decades in traditional media, Cynthia Simmons is among those who are teaching Penn State students to find the growth in new forms of media through the ENTI minor. Simmons, an assistant teaching professor in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, said the barriers to entry are much lower than they were in the past, and voices can now be heard that were kept from traditional newsrooms in the past.

“This is an incredible opportunity for different historically marginalized groups to own their own media,” said Simmons. “You see it all the time. The hard part is making a living on it, and that's where the entrepreneurial skills come in.”

The entrepreneurship and innovation minor is a part of the Center for Penn State Student Entrepreneurship, which is housed in Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at undergrad.psu.edu.
 

Last Updated December 01, 2020