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Building An Entrepreneurial Engineering Ecosystem For Future Generations: The Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Learning from Entrepreneurship Programs

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.265.1 - 13.265.23

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Paper Authors

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Jeffrey Blessing Milwaukee School of Engineering


Kristen Mekemson Kern Family Foundation

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Kristen Mekemson joined the Kern Family Foundation in April 2007. She works with senior program staff to oversee, monitor, and evaluate grants and projects. She also conducts program research, site visits, and other investigative activities in support of program development, program exploration, and grant making. Kristen received a B.A. in Writing-Intensive English and French and M.A. in British and American Literature from Marquette University. She was on the development staff at Lawrence University for two years. Prior to her time at Lawrence, she was an English instructor at UW-Milwaukee and Bryant and Stratton College.

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David Pistrui Illinois Institute of Technology

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Building an Entrepreneurial Engineering Ecosystem for Future Generations: The Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network Abstract The integration of entrepreneurship and innovation into undergraduate engineering education has been found to enhance student performance and improve retention rates (Ohland, 2004). It also prepares graduating engineers to work in rapidly changing environments defined by a competitive global marketplace. Industry is asking for engineers with better communication and teamwork skills, and most importantly, a broader understanding of how to solve real world problems and create value in the marketplace. While some engineering schools are beginning to integrate entrepreneurship and business concepts into the curriculum, many ABET-accredited schools are slow to react to the needs of industry and the marketplace.

Recognizing that this problem is threatening the quality of U.S. engineering talent, the Kern Family Foundation established the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN) with the mission to create an action-oriented, entrepreneurial mindset among engineering, science and technical undergraduates. The KEEN initiative, launched in 2005, represents a new and unique entrepreneurial approach to improving undergraduate education in the U.S.

This paper shows how building an entrepreneurial ecosystem within and among engineering schools, as exemplified by KEEN, will provide a strong foundation for graduating engineers entering organizations operating in an innovation-based economy. Ecosystems can be defined as environments with interconnected relationships influenced by a variety of factors. An entrepreneurial ecosystem links people by vision, commitment, passion, and innovation surrounding the achievement of a common goal.

The paper has five objectives: (1) establish the need for an innovative and entrepreneurial talent pool coming out of U.S. engineering schools; (2) identify critical skills and abilities that can be taught to fulfill this need; (3) describe KEEN from its inception, documenting how new and innovative entrepreneurship-based undergraduate engineering education programs evolve and take shape; (4) provide an overview and general assessment of the types of programs KEEN schools are developing and the impact the KEEN initiative is having on advancing undergraduate engineering, science and technical education; and (5) present a new, staged continuum model of entrepreneurship education that will be used to further develop and assess each school’s KEEN program impact and sustainability.

The findings include a series of real world examples and ideas of how to develop new and valuable educational programs and activities that better prepare undergraduate students to work in established enterprises, emerging businesses and start-ups.

Blessing, J., & Mekemson, K., & Pistrui, D. (2008, June), Building An Entrepreneurial Engineering Ecosystem For Future Generations: The Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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