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A Living-Learning Community for Engineers Interested in Entrepreneurship: Looking Back at the First Year

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 7

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Thomas P. James P.E. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Thomas James received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering and an Executive MBA from Marquette University. He has a MS in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Dr. James is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and is a registered Professional Engineer (PE). His major interests are new product development and global business ventures. He teaches courses in management and entrepreneurial studies. In addition to teaching, Dr. James directs the ESCALATE program, a living-learning community focused on integrating entrepreneurship and technical disciplines. Dr. James is also an avid inventor with over a dozen patents and he has several publications in peer reviewed journals related to his research in biomechanical systems. Prior to joining academia, he worked in the consumer products industry for 13 years where he was the Director of Engineering at Milwaukee Electric Tool. Following an acquisition by Techtronic Industries, he became the Senior Vice President of Global Engineering for the power tools division, headquartered in Hong Kong, where he lived and worked.

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A first cohort of 45 freshman engineering students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology were selected for admission in fall 2014 from an applicant pool that self-identified as being interested in entrepreneurship. This coeducational group, representing approximately 8% of the incoming class of engineering students, formed a living-learning community. They were housed in a common residence, completed a series of academic courses together over the arc of their first year experience, and participated in co-curricular activities that focused on entrepreneurship. In this paper, the cohort’s first year academic performance and retention rate are compared to their incoming class. The cumulative mean grade point average for the living-learning community was greater than the comparable class (p < 0.05), accounting for potential differences based on incoming standardized test scores. Also, the retention rate was greater and statistically significant (p < 0.05) for the cohort as compared to their class. In addition, demographics of the cohort were studied, revealing a student body that was largely reflective of their class, with one notable exception. In both the first and second cohorts, there are no students in the living-learning community that have declared civil engineering as their primary major. This is unusual, because on average approximately 6-7% of the incoming class will be civil engineers. A survey instrument is employed to reveal why civil engineering students are the least likely of the engineering disciplines to join a community focused on entrepreneurship. The paper concludes with a discussion of lessons learned and best practices from the first year, highlighting a new peer mentoring program that is under development to provide a bridge between successive cohorts and to create a sustainable organizational structure that is both student led and tied to the entrepreneurship club that has existed on campus for several years.

James, T. P. (2016, June), A Living-Learning Community for Engineers Interested in Entrepreneurship: Looking Back at the First Year Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26346

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