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Author: Doan Winkel

Entrepreneurship educator Doan Winkel brings an experiential approach to all his ideas for how to disrupt education and provide a more engaging student experience
Improving Course Evaluations

Improving Course Evaluations

Why emotion-based feedback is more powerful than number-based feedback

Course evals come too late and measure the wrong thing

practice what we preach – quick feedback cycles that we get multiple times so we can pivot our approach, our content, etc.

Here’s how we gather feedback in ExEC (show & explain process)

Here’s what we are learning:

show how student emotional feedback has changed (Federico graphs)

 

Get the Emotion-Based Feedback Form

We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!

Subscribe here to get lesson plans delivered in your inbox.

 

New Design Thinking: Backpack Design Challenge

New Design Thinking: Backpack Design Challenge

Tell students they are hired as a product designer. Their first job out of school is to design an ideal backpack. To help them do this, introduce the series of worksheets laid out in the Backpack Design Challenge lesson plan.

Step 1: The Most Exciting Purchase or Gift

The first worksheet asks students what is the most exciting thing they bought themselves, or were given as a gift recently.

It is really helpful with this exercise for you to share your perspective. At this step, share with them a concrete example of something that really excited you.

Make sure the thing they think of is something specific, and something they were really looking forward to. For example, a birthday present, or a holiday present, or something they’ve been wanting for months that they finally splurged on.

Design thinking backpack design challenge

Step 2: Feelings About the Purchase or Gift

Students record the feelings that came up as they made the purchase or received the gift. Give students time to reflect on the emotions they felt.

The point of these two steps is to build the foundation for the design thinking exercise to come.

Our goal is for them to learn a set of skills that helps them design products and services that get their customers as excited about the thing the student is creating as the student was about the purchase or gift. 

 Get The Lesson Plan Today!

Step 3: Must-have features

Now we will teach students to design a backpack that people get super excited about.

Ask students to describe their three “must have” features of their backpack.

A new approach to design thinking

Start by describing your three “must haves” and give them a few minutes to write down their three “must haves” that are unique to them.

Step 4: Draw the ideal backpack

The next step is for students to draw their ideal backpack. The point here is not beautiful artwork. The point is to visualize what the backpack with their must-have features looks lke.

Step 6: Ideal backpack reflection

Pair your students up for this step. Each student shares their drawings with their partner.

Each partner will ask lots of questions to dive deep into why their partner wanted certain features and anything else they are curious about.

design thinking reflection

Next, give students a few minutes to reflect on their partner’s backpack design. They describe what they saw and heard, how they felt about what they saw and heard, etc.

Components of the traditional design process

  • What should be built (start with product in mind)
  • How should it work / what should it look like? (functionality)
  • Do people love it?
  • Goal: build the best thing

Alternative approach: design thinking introduction

Explain to your students that what they just experienced is the traditional design process. Continue by sharing that this traditional way is not the best way to get customers excited about their product or service.

Ask them whether their partner offered to pre-order when saw other design. Was their partner so excited that they offered to give them real money? The answer will be no.

design process steps

Explain that in the traditional design process, someone

  • decides a product they should build
  • figures out the functionality of their product – what are the nuts and bolts
  • as a last step, they launch their product and work to figure out whether people love it

For your students to design something that gets people truly excited, they need to understand the design thinking process.

The design thinking process has five steps to create products people get really excited about:

  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

Talk to your students about the difference between the traditional design process and the design thinking process. In the traditional design approach, they start with thinking about the product they’re going to build.

In the design thinking process, they start with no product in mind. Instead, they start by understanding the customer’s emotional needs. In other words, what motives them on emotional level? This is the empathizing stage

If the goal is to build something people love, empathizing should be the first step in the process not the third step.

Step 7: Design something useful

Now that they are inspired to design something people want, pair students up again. Students interview the partner they previously worked with for 4 minutes each.

It is important here to tell them to forget about the backpack. They are taking a design thinking approach, so they don’t know what the “right” thing to build is. They learn what their partner really loves and why, so they can design something these customers truly want.

design thinking first step

The goal of this interview is to find out what’s the hardest part about being a student, how they felt, when they felt that way, and why it’s a problem.

Step 8: Dig deeper

Students then conduct another 4-minute interview with their partner. The difference is, this time they

  • What feelings arise for their partner when they have the problem they described before
  • Have they done anything to try and solve that problem
  • What didn’t they like about that solution

 Get The Lesson Plan Today!

Steps 9-11: Define the problem

Students next will define the problem their partner mentioned. They will

  • Synthesize data obtained from partner interview
  • Answer 3 questions
    • What goals is their partner trying to achieve?
    • What did they learn about their partner’s motivation
    • What is the partner point of view: [partner name] needs a way to [verb] because [problem to solve]

design thinking: define the problem step

This step outlines for the student a structure for the process of designing a solution that excites their partner.

Step 12: Ideate solutions

We now understand the problem. The goal here is to draw 5 different designs for alternative solutions using the new information they gathered. These designs can be anything. They don’t have to be based in reality – encourage your students to use their imagination.

design thinking new exercise

Step 13: Solicit feedback

In same pairs as before, students share their new solutions with each other and provide feedback. They share with each other what do they like, what don’t they like, and why.

design thinking feedback

Students will then iterate with their partners to come up with a more ideal solution for the problem based on their partner’s feedback.

design thinking iteration

This work will likely have nothing to do with backpacks – it will relate to the biggest problems the students experience. It could be about time management, or the dining hall, or parking, or boring classes.

That’s OK – we are working to get them trying to solve real problems for their partner!

Step 14: Reflect on new design

Students now have a new design based on feedback from their partner. Now we want them to reflect on that new design.

In pairs, they will answer two questions about the design their partner developed to solve their problem:

  • What emotions come up with thinking about partner’s new design, and why?
  • More excited about partner’s original design or new design, and why? 

design thinking reflection

Step 15: Compare approaches

Now you will recap everything with your students as a class. Tell them they went through two approaches to design:

  • Traditional design approach – their first design
  • Design thinking approach – their second design

They now fill out a comparison worksheet for these two approaches. First each student writes down the two different designs their partner create for them. The questions they will answer about these two designs are:

  • Which design are they most excited about?
  • Which design is more feasible?
  • Which design solves their partners’ problem better?
  • Which design would they choose?

design thinking comparison

Ask the class as a whole which design method feels more valuable. Specifically, ask them to put up the numbers of fingers representing the number of Xs they have in the Design Thinking row.

You should see an overwhelming number of students put up at least 3 fingers for the design thinking approach.

Highlight for students that this is why we do design thinking:

It is so much more powerful for creating ideas that are exciting to customers and that they want to pay for because the product actually solves their real problems.

Then, summarize for your students that they just completed the full design thinking process:

  • They empathized – they worked to understand their customer’s problems
  • They defined the problem – they gathered all the information they learned from their customer & now understand the problem that customer experiences
  • They then ideated on solutions for that problem – they developed multiple potential solutions for the problem their customer was experiencing
  • They prototyped products to solve the problem – here they would develop something that a user could actually interact with
  • Last, they tested their prototype – they solicited feedback from their customer to learn what appealed to them and what did not

The design thinking process is iterative. Students went through it once during this exercise. After testing, they can start again by empathizing with their customer based on their new product.

This approach is powerful because it will help your students work on solving problems that real customers actually experience.

After this exercise is a great place to segway into your syllabus and the topics you will cover and experiences students will have. You can connect this experience to the rest of your course by highlighting they will now be able to:

  • Understand a wide range of customer needs
  • Defining the problem
  • Iterating on a solution to that problem
  • Designing prototypes of that solution
  • Testing how customers feel about that solution

Get the “Backpack Design Challenge” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Backpack Design Challenge” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.

All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it in the comments below so we can improve it!


Coming Soon…

We will be sharing more engaging exercises like this one!

Subscribe here to get lesson plans delivered in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

 

Quick Slide: Make Entrepreneurship Relevant

Quick Slide: Make Entrepreneurship Relevant

With the first day of class approaching, here’s a slide to make your entrepreneurship course more relevant.

The more relevant your course is, the more engagement you’ll get.

Make Entrepreneurship Relevant quick slide

You can tell students that whether or not they ever become entrepreneurs, in your class they’ll learn how to…

Find problems worth solving, and solutions worth building.

Solving valuable problems is the key to success in every career path which is why everyone – from bus mechanics to business moguls – benefits from learning entrepreneurial skills.

Get our newest quick slide to engage your students on day one:


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share exercises to engage your students.

Subscribe here to be the first to get these in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • Videos to Improve Student Presentations. Here are videos to teach students to deliver presentations that make their audience feel something.
  • How to Grow a Top 50 Entrepreneurship Program. Learn 5 concrete steps you can take to grow your entrepreneurship program, as shared by leaders to Top 50 programs.
  • Marketing MVPs. In this experiential exercise, students launch real ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram to test demand for their MVPs
  • 2021 Top Lesson Plans. Here is the list of our 2021 top entrepreneurship exercises and lesson plans based on feedback from our fast-growing community of thousands of entrepreneurship instructors.
The Best Curriculum Yet

The Best Curriculum Yet

If you’re teaching entrepreneurship in the fall . . .

The best version of ExEC is available now!

See why more than 200 colleges and universities will use ExEC this year: get your preview here.

Easy LMS Integration

No more fighting with your LMS!Whether you’re on Canvas, D2L, Blackboard, or Moodle, you can have a custom ExEC course uploaded in less than 5 minutes.

And with ExEC you get . . .

ExEC LMS Integration

. . . all of which you can use to customize your course.

Improve Team Collaboration

If you want to increase team engagement (while reducing friction), ExEC now enables students to work together on assignments.

ExEC Team Collaboration

Whether your students are across the table, or across the world from one another, ExEC allows them to collaborate like working professionals.

Engaging Simulations

As always, ExEC uses 100% experiential learning to teach students entrepreneurial skills.

ExEC Simulation

Save Your Students Money

ExEC has always been less expensive than textbooks and even with new functionality and more exercises, ExEC remains the same price as always. Plus, students get lifetime access and free upgrades with a one-time payment.

If you’d like to engage your students with a fun, structured experience in the Fall, check out the award-winning Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum!

Preview ExEC Now


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share exercises to engage your students.

Subscribe here to be the first to get these in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • Videos to Improve Student Presentations. Here are videos to teach students to deliver presentations that make their audience feel something.
  • How to Grow a Top 50 Entrepreneurship Program. Learn 5 concrete steps you can take to grow your entrepreneurship program, as shared by leaders to Top 50 programs.
  • Marketing MVPs. In this experiential exercise, students launch real ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram to test demand for their MVPs
  • 2021 Top Lesson Plans. Here is the list of our 2021 top entrepreneurship exercises and lesson plans based on feedback from our fast-growing community of thousands of entrepreneurship instructors.
Delight Your Students This Fall

Delight Your Students This Fall

Gift your students an unforgettable experience this Fall!

With better team engagement . . .

With quick video submissions . . .

With a simplified LMS implementation . . .

ExEC delivers an engaging, structured course for any teaching format that faculty at nearly 200 colleges and universities have been using for years. For more details on using this award-winning curriculum this Fall, request a full preview today!

Preview ExEC Now

Here is how ExEC will WOW! you and your students.

Easy Team Collaboration

We have updated our platform to allow team collaboration with literally a few clicks.

Students complete exercises within our curriculum and then with a few clicks can invite other students to collaborate on that particular exercise. See this in action below:

For instance, many of our students work on a Business Model Canvas. They get frustrated sharing paper copies, or emailing ideas, or struggling with a clunky Google doc version.

Collaborating should be productive, not frustrating.

With ExEC, students easily collaborate on one Canvas, in real time, within the platform.

Quick Video Submission

Video submissions are a great way for students to meaningfully reflect on their experience. This reflective approach encourages students to improve and learn from their mistakes. Video submissions have been a juggling act of multiple tools like iPhones, Zoom, and Google Drive.

Until now!

In our new video submission process students record their reflection with the click of a button, and instantly get a link to the video they can turn in. With our next iteration of ExEC:

We leverage technology to keep the focus on the learning experience.

The student experience is not all we have improved!

New LMS Generator

With ExEC’s LMS integration, preparing your class is easy. Give us the first and last day of class, any holidays, what LMS you use, what days of the week classes happen, and the length of class sessions.

Our technology builds an LMS package specific to your course so all you do is upload it and your course is ready to go.

With ExEC, spend your time diving into detailed lesson plans, not tinkering with the LMS

ExEC Integrates with all LMS

Engage Students

Students want simple, interactive experiences.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) is a cohesive toolset of structured activities that will build students’ entrepreneurial skills. For example:

Try ExEC this Fall and transform your and your students’ experience.

Preview ExEC Now


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share more engaging resources we are developing for entrepreneurship educators to transform their classrooms!

Subscribe here to be the first to get these resources delivered to your inbox!

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Quick Slide: Why Prototyping Is Essential

Quick Slide: Why Prototyping Is Essential

Prototyping can make students anxious because they’ve learned to fear failure.

It’s our job to reframe failures as learning opportunities.

Like the Micheal Jordan slide, you can use these slides to change how your students think about failure:

prototyping

This sets you up to introduce prototyping not as building products, but as running experiments:

prototyping

Combine these with the 60 Minute MVP exercise and your students will discover that…

Prototyping is a powerful (and fun) way to get customer feedback.

Specifically, students learn:

  • How to create a landing page (basic website) or application prototype/wireframe
  • How to create an explainer video
  • How to collect some form of currency to measure the effectiveness of their MVP

So, if you want to show your students the power of prototyping try the 60-Minute MVP and…


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share exercises to engage your students.

Subscribe here to be the first to get these in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • Videos to Improve Student Presentations. Here are videos to teach students to deliver presentations that make their audience feel something.
  • How to Grow a Top 50 Entrepreneurship Program. Learn 5 concrete steps you can take to grow your entrepreneurship program, as shared by leaders to Top 50 programs.
  • Marketing MVPs. In this experiential exercise, students launch real ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram to test demand for their MVPs
  • 2021 Top Lesson Plans. Here is the list of our 2021 top entrepreneurship exercises and lesson plans based on feedback from our fast-growing community of thousands of entrepreneurship instructors.
ExEC Can Be Your Fall Curriculum

ExEC Can Be Your Fall Curriculum

Fall will be here before you know it!

Do you want students engaged from day one?

Do you want a simplified grading process?

Do you want award-winning detailed lesson plans?

Whether you will teach:

  • In-person
  • Online synchronous
  • Online asynchronous
  • Hybrid

ExEC delivers an engaging and structured course that faculty at nearly 200 colleges and universities have been using for years. For more details on using ExEC this Fall, request a full preview today!

Preview ExEC Now

Here is what ExEC can do for you and your students.

Engage Students

Students want you to replace your lectures with interactive experiences.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) is a cohesive toolset of structured activities that will build students’ entrepreneurial skills. For example:

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Organization

Easily Deliver a Consistent Experience

Students enjoy a consistent and structured learning experience.

ExEC is a fully experiential and extremely well-organized curriculum for any class structure – 8, 10, 12, or 16 weeks, quarter system or accelerated MBA schedule.

You get a well-organized schedule of topics that guide students to:

problems and solutions

Preview ExEC Now

Get The Tools To Enjoy Your Experience

ExEC makes planning and grading faster, so you can spend your time guiding your students. You get dozens of extremely detailed lesson plans to minimize your prep time!

Plus with ExEC’s LMS integration, prepping for your class is easy. With a couple clicks, you upload your entire class into your LMS so you have time to dive into the detailed lesson plans.

ExEC Integrates with all LMS

Preview ExEC Now

Use a Curriculum So Students Enjoy Their Experience

ExEC uses fully integrated, objective rubrics that make grading a snap and provide students valuable feedback to improve their skill development.

objective rubric

For your students, ExEC provides elegant, graphically pleasing slides for every class session to maximize engagement.

what is an mvp?

 

Give Your Students Engagement, Quality, and Structure

ExEC is an award-winning, peer-reviewed, experiential curriculum that engages students in building entrepreneurial skills.

Try ExEC this Fall and transform your and your students’ experience.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share more engaging resources we are developing for entrepreneurship educators to transform their classrooms!

Subscribe here to be the first to get these resources delivered to your inbox!

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Videos to Improve Student Presentations

Videos to Improve Student Presentations

If students can get their audience to feel something, their chance of “success” rises dramatically.
We’ve all been there. Two students stand on one side of the screen, two students stand on the other. One student talks to the screen while the others fidget nervously until it’s their turn to stumble through what they couldn’t quite memorize.

Student presentations are painful. For them. For us. For judges.

Use the videos below to teach your students to deliver presentations that make their audience feel something.

Option 1: Make The Audience Feel Something About Themselves

Students often jump right into describing or selling the product/service.

This is the classic pitch mistake.

Students need to know their audience – their goals, their values, their struggles. The more they know about their audience, the easier it will be for them to bring the audience’s point of view to theirs. In the video below, Dallas Mavericks owner, and Shark Tank billionaire Mark Cuban shares how he sold Mavericks tickets when they were the worst team in the NBA.

Presentation hack to pitch from your audience's perspective

Mark is not selling the basketball game. He is selling the feeling parents have when they create family memories at the basketball game.

Mark understand that his customers (parents) want to create memories with their children. And more importantly, the kind of memories the parents have with their parents. He convinces customers that a Mavericks game experience creates those lasting memories. Mark makes an emotional appeal to his audience’s nostalgia so they will feel something about themselves and buy his product.

Option 2: Make The Audience Feel Something About You

If your students want people involved, they can open up about themselves and weave their personal story into their presentation. If they are vulnerable, their audience begins to feel something.

This approach is about students finding something that is true about them that may also be true about their audience.

In the Shark Tank pitch below, a founder (Phil Lapuz) gets sharks tearing up tearing up – including Kevin O’Leary, who is the definition of a robotic investor!

Phil is vulnerable and authentic. He uses his own story to remind the sharks about the risks of starting a new company, something that each shark undoubtedly remembers and feels very intensely.

Help your students appeal to their audience’s emotions by:

  • Being vulnerable, and authentic
  • Identifying their audience’s values – what matters to them
  • Specifically link their product/service to those values

The audience is immediately compelled to act because they remember, they feel, and they believe. They empathize with the person pitching and with the product/service. Phil makes the sharks feel something about him so they will invest in his startup.

Option 3: Make The Audience Feel With You

Amy Cuddy’s video below is about imposter’s syndrome, which she felt and which many in the audience undoubtedly felt at one time or another. They feel Amy’s fear and angst. Because they remember, and feel, their fear and angst.

People clap during Amy’s talk, because they are celebrating her and what she is offering another young woman experiencing imposter syndrome. But they are also clapping because they recognize something in themselves.

Amy doesn’t just make her audience feel something about themselves.

She doesn’t just make her audience feel something about her.

She makes her audience feel with her. And in that moment, they will go wherever she wants to take them!


If students default to their normal Powerpoint presentation technique, the audience defaults to processing language. All their effort is spent decoding words into meaning, instead of feeling. Share these videos with your students to help them understand that great presentations make audiences feel something.


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans, quick slides, and a variety of other resources to keep your students engaged!

Subscribe here to get our next classroom resource in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!

Inspirational Video: Don’t You Dare

Inspirational Video: Don’t You Dare

Have your students ever shut down when they were out of their comfort zone?

My students absolutely have, many times. Two students come to mind:

    1. I had a student who, for years, talked about her dream job: becoming a forensic accountant. One summer, a fantastic company posted a forensic accounting internship near her hometown, but she wasn’t going to apply for it. When I asked why, she said she didn’t think she could compete for it. I asked her for a Zoom call, played a video like the one below, and spent the next hour helping her believe she was worthy of the internship. She didn’t get the internship that summer. But she did get it the next summer!
    2. Another student wanted to start a landscaping business. He didn’t believe he could make enough money to cover the cost to buy all the equipment. I helped him discover ways to borrow and rent equipment while he tested out his sales and service strategies and before he tried booking his first client, I sent him a video like the one below. Within a year, he had 30 clients and 2 employees.

If your students need some encouragement to believe in themselves, consider showing them some of these videos:

Entrepreneurship ask students to learn from their failures.

Of course, most of our students have been taught to fear failure and as a result, are fearful of even talking to customers, let alone trying to sell them something.

To combat that, you can use the video below to help your students learn that life isn’t about how well they avoid failure, it’s about how well they learn from it:

dream big

An experiential entrepreneurship classroom can be a stressful place for our students.

It’s full of uncertainty, challenge, and vulnerability. Many believe they can’t accomplish the things we ask of them. Many believe they can’t achieve their dreams.

Levity also goes a long way toward helping students feel more comfortable and confident. For a fun and lighthearted way to inspire your students, invite the “President” in for a pep talk:

inspirational video

Whenever your students are about to try something new, consider leveraging videos like these to give them a boost in confidence.

Show a video before they…

If you want to inspire your students, videos speak volumes!


Access Slides With These, and Many More, Videos Embedded


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share more videos to motivate your students, and exercises to engage your students.

Subscribe here to be the first to get these in your inbox.

Join 15,000+ instructors. Get new exercises via email!


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • Quick Slide: Michael Jordan was a Failure. How Michael Jordan leverages failure to make him better.
  • The NEW Marshmallow Challenge. Use this exercise to teach students why invalidated assumptions hinder all new initiatives, and are ultimately the downfall of most new companies.
  • Marketing MVPs. In this experiential exercise, students launch real ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram to test demand for their MVPs
  • 2021 Top Lesson Plans. Here is the list of our 2021 top entrepreneurship exercises and lesson plans based on feedback from our fast-growing community of thousands of entrepreneurship instructors.
How to Grow a Top 50 Entrepreneurship Program

How to Grow a Top 50 Entrepreneurship Program

When Dennis Barber III joined East Carolina University’s entrepreneurship program 5 years ago, there wasn’t much of a program to speak of:

  • No entrepreneurship major
  • Low class enrollment
  • Little entrepreneurial brand recognition

Fast forward to today and ECU not only has an entrepreneurship major, they’ve:

  • Tripled their entrepreneurship enrollment
  • Won USASBE’s Model Emerging Program
  • Won GCEC’s Emerging Centers award
  • And made Princeton Review’s list of Top 50 Entrepreneurship Schools

Princeton Review Top 50 Entrepreneurship Programs

So how did Dennis and his colleagues – Michael Harris, Director of the Miller School of Entrepreneurship, David Mayo, and Corey Pulido – grow their entrepreneurship program so quickly? And more generally…

How do Top 50 entrepreneurship schools get on, and stay on, that list?

To find out, we interviewed the leaders of several Top 50 programs so we could share their techniques with you.

Who We Interviewed

Top entrepreneurship programsBelow you’ll find a summary of what we learned during our interviews, as well as…

5 concrete steps you can take to grow your entrepreneurship program.

Step #1: Define Your Niche

Most of the successful entrepreneurship programs we interviewed did two things early on to spark their growth:

  1. They intentionally started small and
  2. They specialized in an area of entrepreneurship that leveraged their local community and institutional culture

For instance, Iowa State University leaned into agricultural entrepreneurship, and East Carolina University specialized in the needs of eastern North Carolina. Studying your local ecosystem by identifying the largest industries, companies, and communities will help you define your niche. Additionally, you can look at your local Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, or similar entity, to see how they are marketing your community.

Defining your entrepreneurial niche is important because it will help your program stand out in a sea of other academic programs, not to mention accelerators, incubators and community-based organizations. Narrowing in on a small group of students you can serve extremely well as your program is still growing will increase the success rate of your program, which you can highlight as case studies to create a positive feedback loop that grows your program.

As David Townsend from Virginia Tech University said,

“Let it grow where the soil is fertile.”

So if your local community has a large Latinx population, consider specializing in Latinx entrepreneurship. Or if your entrepreneurship program has a number of instructors who are veterans, consider developing programs that specialize in veterans entrepreneurship.

Over time, you’ll be able to grow and broaden the scope of your program, but when you’re starting out, do like the most successful programs have done and ensure that you can provide a fantastic opportunity for a small set of entrepreneurs in your community. Then, highlight their successes to help fuel your program’s growth.

Note: This is our first article in a series dedicated to growing entrepreneurship programs. We’d love your input on which article we should write next.

If you want more details on this specific step (i.e. how to define your entrepreneurial program’s niche and create programs specific to it) please vote here and we’ll expand the overview above into a full article and checklist.

Step #2: Name Your Champions

The Top 50 programs we talked to overwhelming stressed the importance of identifying people on your growth team to fulfill these three roles:

  1. Administrative Champion: A Dean, Vice-President, Provost, President, etc. who has been at your school for some time and has excellent relationships with faculty, staff, and the ability to get buy-in for creating new programs.
  2. Faculty Champion: Preferably a tenured faculty member who can drive the implementation of your new academic and extracurricular programming.
  3. Data Collector: Someone to aggregate program metrics, testimonials, and success stories.

Note: the same person can fulfill multiple roles, you just need to make sure you’ve got someone owning all three levels of responsibility.

Champions are people who can help you launch your efforts by providing critical feedback, opening doors, and giving their resources. Many of the programs we interviewed mentioned specifically having two campus champions – one a tenured faculty member, and the other an administrator (Dean, Vice-President / Provost, President). With respected champions who can reach across campus, program growth has a clear path for growth. They also recommend giving the faculty champions a meaningful title and a commitment of time and support to help them help your entrepreneurship program.

Another potential benefit to identifying champions is that they sometimes rise into leadership positions at the university (Dean, Vice-President / Provost, President) and can provide ongoing support and visibility for your program from the top down.

Jamey Darnell from Penn State University mentioned that working towards getting ranked as a top entrepreneurship school is a great way to get administration excited, and achieving rankings is a great way to keep them excited.

In addition to stressing how important campus champions were to building their program, the leaders we interviewed all spoke about the importance of a data collector: someone to capture their efforts and successes and report them as part of the Princeton Review rankings process. As with your champions, consider providing this person (ideally a faculty member) with a title and a small monetary stipend to emphasize the importance of the role and ensure they have time to complete it. In addition, make sure other people on campus know who this person is – put out a press release, introduce the data collector at campus meetings and events, etc. This person will interface with faculty, students, and administrators, so letting your campus know who they are and what they’re doing enables them to collect more stories and data.

Finally, as Dr. Susan Fiorito, Dean of the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship at Florida State University stressed, all of your faculty, staff, and champions need to feel enabled as leaders of your entrepreneurship program. When everyone feels ownership, everyone delivers.

If you’d like us to write a more detailed article about how to identify and empower your entrepreneurial champions, please click here.

Step #3: Start a Fellows Program

Every program we talked to emphasized the importance of early cross-campus collaboration. Creating these connections will help you accomplish two things:

  1. Get buy-in from a wide range of tenured faculty which helps establish academic legitimacy.
  2. Grow your program by embedding entrepreneurship across the curriculum which introduces it to more students.

To do this, you want to build a cohort of entrepreneurial ambassadors across campus. As Tom Swartwood at Iowa State University recommended, you want to:

“Deputize people around campus.”

Jamey at Penn State University found that having a cross-disciplinary program leads directly to growth because they get to meet students wherever they are: at a law school, at an incubator, etc. For the same reason, Susan Fiorito at Florida State University recommends developing a diversity of courses and programs to reach as far across campus as possible.

The most effective mechanism we heard for building cross-campus collaboration was through an “entrepreneurship Fellows” program. In a Fellows program, you pay non-entrepreneurship faculty a small stipend to bring entrepreneurship into their curriculum. For example, you might pay 4 or 5 faculty in different disciplines a few thousand dollars to each develop a course that focuses on entrepreneurship in their respective discipline.  Judi Eyles at Iowa State attributed much of the entrepreneurship program’s success to spending a little money early on to “turn faculty into ambassadors.”

You guide the Fellows through learning about entrepreneurship in the context of your university (and your niche), and collaboratively develop ideas for how to introduce it into their curriculum. You will also want to include faculty involved with your curriculum approval process in your Fellows program, which will help smooth the course approval process when you get to that stage.

Each year, add more Fellows to your program (both senior faculty and new faculty), in new disciplines, while former Fellows serve as mentors. You can thereby build a rich and diverse community of entrepreneurship champions across campus.

The big payoff from an investment in a Fellows program comes in two forms:

  1. Cultivating entrepreneurship educators across many disciplines creates a rich fabric of entrepreneurial courses, which increases interest in entrepreneurial minors, and majors.
  2. Student entrepreneurs get a diverse range of experiences and perspectives, which increase the quality of their experiences and their outcomes as future entrepreneurs.

If you’d like us to write a detailed guide on how to create a fellows program, please click here.

Step #4: Map Your Ecosystem

Ecosystem maps will help you understand the relationships between the people and assets that contribute to creating amazing student experiences. Building an ecosystem map specifically provides two benefits:

  1. You identify the people who support entrepreneurship (so you can empower them) and those who do not support it yet (so you can interview them to understand their perspective and work to bring them onboard)
  2. During your research, you plant the seeds from which your entrepreneurship program will grow. As you map your ecosystem, you talk to faculty, staff, students, and alumni about your vision and goals for your program. When it is time to make an ask, these stakeholders understand what you’re doing and why.

The leaders we interviewed mentioned the following as critical components to include in your ecosystem map:

  • ​​The faculty and staff who collectively create your student experience.
  • The practices they perform – the services or value they deliver to students.
  • The information they require, use, or share to contribute to their parts of the university.
  • The people, systems, faculty, and staff they interact with to be successful in their roles.
  • The channels through which they communicate – e.g., email, campus newsletter, campus forums.

For a demo on how to start outlining the key players in your ecosystem, check out this great video by Meg Weber from Western Washington University:

Want more details on how to build and leverage an ecosystem map? Click here and we’ll expand this into a full guide.

Step #5: Connect Your FACS

After you’ve identified your niche, champions, Fellows, and ecosystem members, you’re ready to take the final step that separates the Top 50 entrepreneurship programs from the rest…

Connect your constituencies to accelerate growth.

Successful entrepreneurship programs are intentional about connecting their “FACS”:

  • Faculty
  • Alumni
  • Community
  • Students

Each of these groups complements the others, and together, creates the fuel for program growth. For example, you want to make sure you’re actively promoting programs connecting:

  • Faculty to Alumni – Great for finding guest speakers, internships for students, publicizing your programs’ success stories, and soliciting donations.
  • Faculty to Community – Great for getting pitch competition judges, finding inspiration for class projects, highlighting student success stories, and soliciting donations.
  • Students to Alumni – Great for mentorships, jobs, and potential investments.
  • Students to Community – Great for mentorships, jobs, and inspiring class projects.

As Judi Eyles at Iowa State University mentioned, “you need to make it easy for the outside world to connect with your students and faculty by giving them a portal to connect.” Intentionally building relationships with students will help you keep in touch with them as they transition to alums, and enable you to extend relationships with them and their growing network.

Creating relationships with alumni and community members will provide the “reality” your students yearn for as they wonder how to apply what they’re learning in the classroom. Alumni will also create opportunities for students – through job shadowing, internships, seed funding, adjunct instructors, and the list goes on.

In short…

Does your entrepreneurship program offer your alumni and community members multiple opportunities to contribute their time, expertise, and/or money to help your program grow?

If not, you may be able to accelerate your program’s growth by connecting your “FACS.”

If you’d like us to write a detailed guide with specific ideas on how to connect your FACS, please click here.

Bonus Step #6: Focus on Skills

The top 50 entrepreneurship programs we interviewed had one more resounding practice in common:

They prioritized entrepreneurial skill development over “success stories.”

The programs we spoke with acknowledged that entrepreneurial success stories are fantastic to share to grow your community, but they can be few and far between. So instead of focusing exclusively on those, the programs emphasized the value for students of learning entrepreneurial skills, regardless of their perceived career path.

Universally applicable skills like design thinking, financial modeling, and business model validation turn today’s students into returning alumni who are looking to hire similarly skilled and innovative graduates.

If you’d to review the skill-based curriculum that 1 out of every 3 programs on Princeton Review’s Top 50 list use, check out our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Want More Growth Tips

We’re excited to explore these subjects in more depth so please let us know what topics we should dive into next!

We hope you’re able to try these strategies and that we get to feature your program in the future!


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share lesson plans, quick slides, and a variety of other resources to keep your students engaged!

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