Current efforts to transform engineering education vary in their intensity and direction. One area that has gained considerable momentum in recent years is the effort to promote development of an entrepreneurial mindset (EM) in undergraduate engineering students. A driving force behind this momentum is the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN). KEEN is a group of 45 institutions united in the mission to promote entrepreneurial minded learning in engineering students. In KEEN, EM is construed to have three primary components, the 3C’s of Curiosity, Connection, and Creating Value. Curiosity is demonstrated when students seek information about our changing world and explore contrarian views of accepted solutions. Connection happens when students integrate information from many sources and perspectives to gain insight. Students Create Value when they place their engineering work in the context of society’s needs and work through failure to see those needs met. Recent efforts within the network led to the development of the Engineering Student Entrepreneurial Mindset Assessment (ESEMA) instrument as a tool to understand EM development within students. The ESEMA operationalizes EM measurement through a 34-item survey. These items load on six factors of interest: ideation, open-mindedness, interest, altruism, empathy, and help seeking.
This work investigates how measurement of these factors compare between engineering students and working entrepreneurs. Data was collected using an instance of the ESEMA and several other instruments hosted in Qualtrics at [university name]. 397 responses were collected from junior and senior engineering students at [the university] while Qualtrics Research Services was utilized to collect complete responses from 172 working professionals. These professionals self-identified as entrepreneurs during survey screening questions. Comparisons between the two groups were made across all six ESEMA factors and a number of other measures using t-tests statisitical tests in R. These comparisons found statistically significant differences (α ≤ 0.1) between the groups in five of the six ESEMA factors and a number of other measures including entrepreneurial intent. While additional investigation is warranted, these stark differences should raise questions for engineering educators interested in promoting entrepreneurial minded learning. Specifically, if the ESEMA outcomes are aligned with promoting the development of future entrepreneurs, are we taking the right actions to develop this mindset?
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