Cornelia Huellstrunk’s blog about the lack of entrepreneurial education at Universities identifies an obvious truth that would benefit our society. Her opinion is that universities are the missing link in entrepreneurship. It is beneficial for our economy (job creation) to encourage startups, yet there is a lack of education of entrepreneurship at universities.

 I chose this blog because I hope to start my own business someday, but I just don’t know how. I am a Civil Engineering and Management major, not because I enjoy the math and science behind building a bridge or aspire to manage some company, but because I wanted to learn how to solve problems creatively. Many organizations hire engineers because of the way they think. A common critique of most engineers, however, is that they do not have a business mindset and they do not know how to communicate well. My management degree was how I planned to overcome these notions. Hopefully this education can lead me to create something unique, but how to implement it properly is an important question that I was never taught.

 I wish there was more education on entrepreneurship at Bucknell. It seems to me that following that career path is viewed as something people happen to stumble upon or something they choose to do in addition to their “real” job.  The Small Business Development Center at Bucknell University offers help to those who have an interest in starting their own business, but it is just a small office hidden in the back of some academic building. It actually took me a few years to realize it even existed. Their main contributions they offer are:

  • Seminars and Workshops – generally costing $20-$75 and offered during class hours (Occasionally have free workshops offered at night)
  • Consulting Services to help start your own business
  • State competition during the semester that requires business plans and presentations (in addition to your class work)

I want to participate in the competition, but I cannot dedicate the necessary time that is needed because my work load is hard enough to juggle. I went to one of the night workshops they offered, and over 90% of the attendees were either professors or local business owners. The leaders of the program were excited to see a few students because it was out of the ordinary I guess. I wished they offered classes that teach the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and are catered to students.

 It is disappointing how few colleges offer entrepreneurial studies as a major. Carl Shramm, CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, says that “fifty-four percent of the nation’s Millennials either want to start a business or already have started one,” and that “entrepreneurship is the key to reviving the economy.”  The foundation also gives a good summary of the economic effects of startups. It is unfortunate that most people do not start a business because they just do not know how to go about doing it. If entrepreneurship is a solution to our economy’s failures, then why aren’t more institutions offering education in its practice? How could we be so far behind in this concept? I have many college friends who have great business ideas, but are too afraid of the risks and the additional energy needed to start it properly. If people were more educated on the process, they would not be so reluctant to take the risk. Huellstrunk said, “What better place than a university to develop and foster entrepreneurial dreams at limited risk?”

 I appreciate the concept of the Small Business Development program at Bucknell, but there is no emphasis on it. It is a great resource, but what good is it if there isn’t a decent curriculum dedicated to it? Bucknell seems to view it as an extra cirricular activity that a few students may want to pursue. It is just another thing for them to check off their lists as another program they added to their own resume.

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11 responses »

  1. Jordi says:

    If you knew the failure rate of all start-ups within five years of founding were upwards of 90%, would that affect your interest? I don’t know that it is, by the way. Should look up.

    • idalbello says:

      I looked up the startup failure rate and the rate for companies that don’t see a return on investment are between 70%-80%. I agree that Bucknell should emphasize on entrepreneur classes as the demand is growing. In today’s society where large companies are scared to innovate because of risk, it is up to small businesses to become innovators. I believe that college students sometimes come up with the most creative ideas, but they don’t know the next steps to make their ideas become realities. It would be interesting to see if Bucknell adds some entrepreneur classes as the school is expanding on the business majors.

  2. Alex Lin says:

    This is a great point you bring up. It reminds me of Peter Thiel’s view on higher education and entrepreneurship. Mr. Thiel actually started his own program called 20 under 20 in which 20 students under the age of 20 are given $100,000 grants to leave college and start their own business.

    Apparently, Bucknell is also aware of your concerns. In 2011, Bucknell became a member of the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network or KEEN program. This means that Bucknell received a $75,000 grant to enhance and encourage an entrepreneurial mindset among its students. As an engineer, I am interested in seeing effective this will be in promoting entrepreneurship among the engineers.

    http://www.bucknell.edu/x73008.xml

  3. Mike says:

    A high failure rate for start-ups would not affect my interest at all. Every entrepreneur that I have spoken to, or have heard speak (at Bucknell) has said that they have failed many times. It might take several attempts to finally create a start-up that doesn’t fail, but it gives you experience for the next one. I guess that’s just the nature of the business that one has to be willing to endure. A successful Bucknell alum that spoke at Bucknell last fall, Greg Skibiski, said that it might take ten start-ups before one succeeds, but when it does…it’s exhilarating.

  4. […] Most Improved Award goes to Mike (Lack of Entrepreneurial education at […]

  5. stumbris says:

    Mike – I’m interested to hear of your desire for more student-focused entrepreneurship programs at Bucknell and glad you joined me at one of the SBDC’s events.

    Right now the most typical way the SBDC works its way into the curriculum is by connecting local entrepreneurs or businesses with class projects like engineering senior design or MIDE 383 product development. Through classes like these and through internships at our center, around 30 students a year engage with clients and there’s much to be said for the experience of working alongside an entrepreneur as they tackling a real-world problem. You get to learn some of the pitfalls of the process without necessarily having your own skin in the game.

    However, I have definitely seen an uptick in student interest in pursuing entrepreneurial ventures of their own in the last couple years. So, towards making our program (and others) more relevant and responsive to the needs and interests of aspiring student entrepreneurs; what would be the best way (BU website, Facebook, msg center, posters, other…) to raise awareness of opportunities like KEEN, SBDC, the Bucknell Entrepreneurship network, etc?

    Thanks, and keep the discussion going. I want to listen,
    -Steve Stumbris, Bucknell SBDC

  6. stumbris says:

    Alex – great note about KEEN. A couple weeks ago MECH alum Fred Thomas, HP’s “Champion for Innovation”, visited classes during the day and gave an evening presentation on invention & entrepreneurship. Look for this program to sponsor many more events and speakers like this over the next few months.

  7. Alex Lin says:

    I was actually at the Fred Thomas presentation and thought it gave great insight into the world of inventing/innovating. Presenters – especially alumni – are a great source for future entrepreneurs.

    But referring to your question of how to raise awareness Steve: I think something more hands-on would be very beneficial. I remember speaking with a first-year student at an IEEE meeting and he asked, “Is there anyway the school or department could order some electrical components for me to just play around with?” With students like that, I think it is important to keep feeding their imagination and let them experiment outside of the classroom setting. I know a lot of different universities have a competition that awards the winner a small grant to take their idea or creation to the next level. Maybe have something similar here with students from both College of Engineering and School of Management.

  8. stumbris says:

    Alex – the new Mooney Innovation Lab in the basement of Dana, the Project Development Lab (an amazingly well outfitted machine shop, although with restricted hours and you do need training) and the nascent student “Bucknell Maker’s Club” (track down Prof Siegel in MECH and Prof Meiser in art) are great places / resources / groups for getting some hand-on tinkering, building, and prototyping experience.

    This semester’s Venture Plan Competition is still open: come up with a business venture (yes it could be a product or technology), draft a business plan, make a presentation – and you can win $5,000. Would that get you going to the next level? It seems our original poster thought it would be too much work outside of the classroom setting, but it seems that you (and around 20 other students so far) seem to disagree… http://www.gskiz.org/Venture-Plan-Competition-2012.html

  9. Mike says:

    To answer your question about how to raise awareness, I think everything is somewhat helpful. The message center gets overlooked most of the time because of how cluttered it is. The same goes for posters unless it is placed in unique, strategic places. I always see the ones in Dana on the staircases, but that wall in the bison is a joke. I like Alex’s hands-on idea. Maybe something integrated with the curriculum is the best way to be exposed. I have had many labs where one of them is dedicated to teaching us about something Bucknell offers (i.e. library resources or technical instruction). If some classes were connected with what the SBDC has to offer, I think it would play a much bigger role on campus.

    I would like to see more entrepreneur guest lecturers come to Bucknell. Those are my favorite and I always learn something new.

  10. stumbris says:

    Good notes Mike, thanks. Our staff often offers guest lectures in junior & senior level classes and we’ve had some of those classes visit us, but it sounds like good places for us to start popping up would be MGMT100, ENGR 100, & other larger, earlier classes

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