Student Perceptions

of the Entrepreneurial Mindset

Focus: Creating Value 

Creating Value is a component of the entrepreneurial mindset. It is the third of the 3C’s (Curiosity, Connections, Creating Value). Explore why students must be champions of value creation.

Project: Student Perceptions of the Entrepreneurial Mindset

by Cheryl Bodnar, Associate Professor, Experiential Engineering Education Department, Rowan University 
2020 KEEN Rising Star

The focus of the KEEN Rising Star Award was to learn more about student perceptions of their entrepreneurial mindset development due to their participation in curricular and co-curricular activities at Rowan University.

As part of this project, we interviewed 19 undergraduate engineering students during the fall and early part of the spring semester, asking them:

  • How would you define "entrepreneurial mindset"? What do you feel are its most important attributes?
  • [After being provided with a literature-based definition of the entrepreneurial mindset] Do you feel you have an entrepreneurial mindset? Why or why not? 
  • Share a story about an experience that contributed to your entrepreneurial mindset development.
  • Do you feel an entrepreneurial mindset is important to your career?

Data collected from these interviews was analyzed and used to create two videos and a peer reviewed conference and journal publication.

Project Team

Bodnar students

Photo: (L-R) Kenyon Burgess, Alexandra Jackson, Samantha Resnick, Rebecca Hansson.

The KEEN Rising Star Award provided an opportunity for four undergraduate engineering students to gain an in-depth understanding of entrepreneurial mindset development amongst engineering students. 

One of the students on the project team, Kenyon Burgess, was a sophomore engineering entrepreneurship student at the time that he joined the project. He served as the lead on the two videos that were developed as part of this project.

Through this project, he has had the opportunity to learn more about how we seek to develop an entrepreneurial mindset within engineering and identify opportunities he could use to further develop his own entrepreneurial mindset throughout the remainder of his degree program.

Another student on the project team, Alexandra Jackson, served as the student lead on both research based deliverables. She is now pursuing her PhD in Engineering with a concentration in Engineering Education at Rowan University under my supervision. The focus of her dissertation will be on entrepreneurial mindset development in engineering students throughout an engineering program.

The other two students on the project team, Rebecca Hansson and Samantha Resnick, were both senior chemical engineering students and have shared how valuable the research experience was to their own professional development and understanding of entrepreneurial mindset.

Project Outcomes: Videos

The following videos help highlight how projects at Rowan University have sought to incorporate the principles related to the 3Cs (Curiosity, Connections, and Creating Value), and communicate that message to students through their peers.

The Engineering Entrepreneurship Program Promotional video is being used as a tool for recruitment for the engineering entrepreneurship program.

The Entrepreneurial Mindset Educational video is being incorporated in the first-year multi-disciplinary engineering design course at Rowan to help students learn, from a student perspective, why developing an entrepreneurial mindset is important.

Project Outcomes: Publications

The work conducted on this project also resulted in both a peer reviewed ASEE conference publication and a peer reviewed journal publication. 

The ASEE publication focused on comparing the students’ definition of entrepreneurial mindset with that of known literature definitions (student self-report surveys, entrepreneurs, and faculty members). It also examined whether students felt that the entrepreneurial mindset was beneficial to their career and if the characteristics that students identified as important were desired by industry. The ASEE conference publication can be found here.

The peer reviewed journal publication was accepted for publication in the STEAM Entrepreneurship Education Special Issue of the Entrepreneurship, Education, and Pedagogy Journal. This journal publication focused on better identifying what types of curricular and co-curricular activities contributed to students’ entrepreneurial mindset development, and what aspects of an entrepreneurial mindset students believed were developed through each of these activities. The STEAM publication can be found here.

Project Impact

It is anticipated that this project will have an impact on both students at Rowan University as well as the broader engineering entrepreneurship research field. 

In terms of students, the first-year engineering entrepreneurial mindset video will be used across all sections of our first-year multidisciplinary design course at Rowan in the coming academic years. Although we continue to provide opportunities for students to build upon their entrepreneurial mindset within coursework, it has been found that students tend to appreciate hearing from their peers, so it is expected that there will be a greater appreciation for the need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset through the inclusion of this video in the course.

The recruitment video will also be beneficial to better communicate the benefits of learning about entrepreneurial mindset while pursuing engineering, and provide a level of awareness that high school students may not have previously had about this integration. 

With regard to the broader engineering entrepreneurship research field, our work has contributed to providing direct measurement of the method in which students define an entrepreneurial mindset. It was observed that there was a bit of a disconnect between how students and faculty define entrepreneurial mindset. Our paper provided suggestions on how to modify the framing of these activities in the classroom to ensure students were taking away the key points we desire them to achieve. We also learned that curricular activities and jobs/internships are key contributors to entrepreneurial mindset development and should continue to be emphasized within undergraduate engineering.

Personal Impact

I have really appreciated the opportunity to be recognized as a KEEN Rising Star

The grant funds associated with the award allowed me the chance to do research on students’ development of entrepreneurial mindset that I was interested in but did not have the resources to undertake prior to this grant. It also allowed me to provide a forum for undergraduate engineering students to learn more about engineering education research and how it is applied to investigate entrepreneurial mindset development. 

The participation in this project confirmed for one of the students that she would like to pursue a PhD in Engineering with a concentration in Engineering Education. She has now started her doctoral degree under my supervision and has been an active contributor to both the KEEN Institutional grant and the KEEN Concept Map grant. 

I am thankful for being given this opportunity and look forward to building upon the work conducted this year in future entrepreneurial mindset research efforts.

In Conclusion: Value Creation

This work has provided me personal value through its ability to expand my understanding of student perception of entrepreneurial mindset

It's easy to assume that the students' understanding of the concept matched my intentions, but it's not often that we have the chance to explore if this is really the case. Through these results, I can now modify my teaching approaches to make sure that I am making meaningful tie-ins to entrepreneurial mindset in my classes and ensure students have clarity on what it means to develop this mindset.

The project also provided training to the students on how to create value as they had to learn more about the different target audiences for their work and pivot/adjust their plans accordingly. A conference and journal paper audience is vastly different from the student populations we were hoping to reach through the videos created. 

This research project gave students the opportunity to work with both of these types of stakeholders and reflect on how their messaging needed to change to meet the needs of the identified stakeholder groups.

About the Author

Cheryl Bodnar

Cheryl Bodnar, Associate Professor, Rowan University

Dr. Bodnar is an Associate Professor in the Experiential Engineering Education Department at Rowan University. Her research interests relate to the incorporation of active learning techniques such as game-based learning in undergraduate classes as well as integration of innovation and entrepreneurship into the engineering curriculum. In particular, she is interested in the impact that these tools can have on student perception of the classroom environment, motivation and learning outcomes.

About the Rising Star Award 

Rising Star nominees are selected at each institution in the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN). These local nominations recognize early-career faculty who contribute to the partner institution’s and Network’s efforts to advance the development of an entrepreneurial mindset in undergraduate engineering students. Nominations of these local Rising Stars are then reviewed by a KEEN awards committee for recognition at the national level. Three national Rising Stars are selected annually through this process.

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