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Entrepreneurial studies are being taught enthusiastically and aggressively in the three institutions of higher learning in Washington and Greene counties.
The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and being counted on by professors, teachers, students, economists and society, in general, to be an answer to create and increase jobs, help turn around struggling cities and communities and raising the quality of life overall.
Raising the entrepreneurial spirit and, at the very least, the curiosity in it in all students is a focal point today.
As Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) has been recognized this past week, leaders at California University of Pennsylvania, Washington & Jefferson College and Waynesburg University are bullish on the entrepreneurship studies programs at their three schools and for entrepreneurship as a whole.
According to www.genglobal.org/gew, GEW, which concluded Nov. 22, is a collection of tens of thousands of events, activities and competitions each November that are geared to inspire millions to explore their potential as an entrepreneur while fostering connections and increasing collaboration within their ecosystems.
“Diversity is a driver of innovation and economies suffer if a nation or group of people are underrepresented or face structural barriers – the world needs more entrepreneurs,” according to a statement on the website. “Powered by the Kauffman Foundation, GEW has expanded to 170-plus nations since (being) launched in 2008 with 20,000 partner organizations now serving as GEN’s community-building backbone.”
Through GEW, GEN seeks universality, striving to be inclusive of individuals and communities who have traditionally faced barriers to entrepreneurship whether minority groups, cumbersome traditional institutions or those pushed to the side by strong competition.
Mark Lennon, Ph.D., MBA, is an associate professor, department of business and enterprise science at Cal U. He said interest in the entrepreneurship studies at his institution is “pretty popular.”
“There’s not enough high-paying jobs to go around,” Lennon said. “If you can’t find a job, you have to create a job.”
Lennon had various stops before landing at Cal U. He spent many years in Japan studying and working.
“It can be inspiring not only creating a business but adopting a business,” Lennon said. “There are many family-owned businesses around that the kids in the family don’t want. You have a viable business but no one to sell it to. Keeping the brand, keeping the business has merit.”
Lennon is quite proud of taking an active part sponsoring Cal U.’s team in the state’s Start-Up Challenge – which features a 72-hour competition over a weekend where students are required to produce an idea, test it, create a business model and canvass for it.
Max Miller, J.D., MBA, is an assistant professor at W&J. He said there is a comfort and a mindset in entrepreneurship that “didn’t exist 20 years ago.”
“There’s a significant amount of interest,” added Miller, who has been at W&J four years. “It’s not like before when many parents worked at the same place for one company their whole lives.
“Students are willing to take risks. They realize it is not the linear experience our parents had. There are so many entrepreneurs now. Pittsburgh is re-shaping itself. It can happen here in Washington – not through high tech but through small businesses. There’s a lot of research that shows small business has to be part of main street America.”
Miller said while students are increasingly interested in entrepreneurship, they also understand the importance of the skill set and mindset “for whatever it is” to be nimble, see opportunities and react quickly and add value to them.
“More students are dipping their toes in it,” Miller said. “We’ve seen an increase in pre-med, music, accounting students who are interested just to gain an understanding of the frameworks at play.”
Melinda Wells, director of the entrepreneurial leadership and innovation program; assistant professor of business administration at Waynesburg University, said one of her charges when she came to the campus, was to create an “across campus” program.
Waynesburg’s vision is to create “a culture of proactive, innovative and ethical problem solving which will provide students with the skills, abilities and experiences they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world.”
Wells has helped Waynesburg reach all students as the university’s stated goals include instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in all of them as a way to think, learn and execute. In addition, Waynesburg wants to provide “multiple pathways for students to develop targeted skills based on the student’s level of interest and career aspirations. Finally, Wells’ mission also includes creating an “inclusive, coordinated and collaborative infrastructure to support” the culture development throughout the campus.
Waynesburg exposes all students to the entrepreneurial mindset through its first-year Fiat Lux seminar. In this program students are taught to develop key skills by infusing project-based and experimental learning. Students are also taught the venture creation process and to provide them with opportunities and support to develop ventures.
“It’s important to expose students to this type of thinking,” Wells said. “Whether it’s an artist or a dentist, we want to help them develop a mindset. That’s way ours is a little different. We introduce them to entrepreneurial thinking quickly.”
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