Thinking Differently About Teaching Entrepreneurship

Adopting an entrepreneurial mindset within our community colleges is part of a mission to better serve our students and communities. However, to spur real entrepreneurial growth, we, as educators, must ask ourselves the following questions:

1. How do we instill the principles of this practice in every student?

2. How do students learn entrepreneurially and how do we teach entrepreneurship as both an art and a science?

3. As we work within our own college’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, how do we engage our colleagues to think boldly, to challenge what has historically or politically persisted, and perhaps even dive deeper into models that have previously failed but still hold potential?

Entrepreneurial leadership and teaching entrepreneurship across disciplines are essential for colleges, students, and communities to survive. Through strategic partnerships, many community college members of NACCE are advancing entrepreneurial learning through new grant-funded pilot programs in, for example, financial literacy, mentoring for young men of color, expanded STEM education for rural middle school students, and increasing intellectual property curriculum in community colleges and universities.

Collaborations with academic and corporate entities have yielded additional entrepreneurial grant-funded support for members in several areas, including:

• Development of a financial management/entrepreneurship curriculum pilot program;

• Creation of new entrepreneurship spaces;

• Increased technical assistance, open resources, and growth in entrepreneurship leadership programs; and

• Expanded communities of practice.

Makerspaces, Fab Labs, Innovation Centers, and events like pitch competitions that encourage entrepreneurial engagement and action are additional examples of hands-on entrepreneurial learning experiences that engage both teachers and students to learn by doing.

As educators, we must emphasize the ever-pressing need for community colleges to prioritize entrepreneurship to remain relevant as well as produce the entrepreneurial graduates needed for the future. To do so, an entrepreneurial education must be offered broadly and across all disciplines. Meeting the challenges of the future and the changing nature of work requires educators to apply the principles of effectuation, as defined by Saras Sarasvathy (2001), to entrepreneurship teaching. Through effectuation, students identify next best steps to achieve their goals while balancing these goals with resources and actions. Sarasvathy has studied the behaviors and traits of entrepreneurs, and how community college leaders can use these habits to meet future challenges.

Fortunately, community colleges have proven their ability to seek opportunities and meet challenges to better serve their colleges and communities. Applying entrepreneurial principles enables educators to approach entrepreneurship pedagogy with greater purpose, shifting the culture to seek out and welcome new cultural and experiential competencies and become co-creators who lead by example, just as entrepreneurs do.

As J. Noah Brown, President and CEO of the Association of Community College Trustees, noted in Community Colleges as Incubators of Innovation (NACCE, 2019),

A recurrent theme, and now an imperative, is the reality that if we are to meet the challenges of the second century of the community college movement, we must begin to think and behave very differently. We should start with what we think we know now, remember what we’ve forgotten, and be comfortable with what we don’t know about the future. In short, to navigate successfully to meet the needs of students and communities, we must adopt an entrepreneurial mindset—letting our passion dictate our direction while exercising moral courage and risk-taking to shift the curve of decision making by rejecting the status quo.

Visit for the reference list.

The NACCE-Verizon Innovative Learning program provides free technology, Internet access, and next-gen technology-infused curriculum to change the way STEM instructors teach and students learn.

Rebecca Corbin

President and CEO, National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship


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