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Comparing Engineering and Business Undergraduate Students’ Entrepreneurial Interests and Characteristics

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Opening General Session 2

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.295.1 - 24.295.30



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Paper Authors


Qu Jin Stanford University

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Qu Jin is a postdoctoral scholar in the Designing Education Lab at Stanford University. She earned her Ph.D. degree in Engineering Education from Purdue University in 2013, M.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering from Purdue University in 2009, and B.S. degree in Material Science and Engineering from Tsinghua University in China in 2007. Her research interests focus on educational studies that can help improve teaching, learning, and educational policy decision makings using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Her current research project in National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) focuses on measuring engineering students’ entrepreneurial interests and related individual characteristics. Her Ph.D. dissertation involved using statistical modeling methods to explain and predict engineering students’ success outcomes, such as retention, academic performance, and graduation.

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Shannon Katherine Gilmartin Stanford University Orcid 16x16


Sheri D. Sheppard Stanford University

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Sheri D. Sheppard, Ph.D., P.E., is professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. Besides teaching both undergraduate and graduate design and education related classes at Stanford University, she conducts research on engineering education and work-practices, and applied finite element analysis. From 1999-2008 she served as a Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, leading the Foundation’s engineering study (as reported in Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field). In addition, in 2003 Dr. Sheppard was named co-principal investigator on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to form the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE), along with faculty at the University of Washington, Colorado School of Mines, and Howard University. More recently (2011) she was named as co-PI of a national NSF innovation center (Epicenter), and leads an NSF program at Stanford on summer research experiences for high school teachers. Her industry experiences includes engineering positions at Detroit's "Big Three:" Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and Chrysler Corporation.

At Stanford she has served a chair of the faculty senate, and is currently the Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

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Helen L. Chen Stanford University

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Comparing Engineering and Business Undergraduate Students’ Entrepreneurial Interests and CharacteristicsTechnological innovation and entrepreneurship are widely regarded as key elements to economicgrowth and the creation of new employment. Engineers are often important members, if notleaders, of the teams that make this innovation and entrepreneurship possible. It has become evenmore important for engineering graduates to not only understand business basics, but to be“flexible, resilient, creative, empathetic, and have the ability to recognize and seizeopportunities” (Byers, Seelig, Sheppard, & Weilerstein, 2013). To help engineering graduatessucceed in this environment, engineering schools are creating courses and programs focused oninnovation and entrepreneurship, sometimes drawing from business approaches in doing so.In designing these courses and programs, a critical first step is to understand the entrepreneurialinterests and characteristics of undergraduate engineering students as compared with studentsmajoring in business. Comparing these two groups of students suggests some of the ways thatbusiness-based courses might be modified for an engineering audience. In addition, someentrepreneurship programs are designed to service both engineering and business majors;understanding how these students compare in terms of entrepreneurial characteristics wouldallow for a better designed course for all students. Students’ gender and age may furtherdifferentiate engineering and business student entrepreneurship experiences, and represent keycovariates to consider.Given these propositions, the research questions guiding the present study are: (1) How doengineering students compare with their business peers on measures of entrepreneurial interestsand characteristics? (2) Do these differences vary by age cohort? (3) How does gender mediatefield and cohort differences?Study participants were 518 engineering and 471 business undergraduate students from 51 U.S.universities and colleges. Data were drawn from a comprehensive survey designed to understandentrepreneurship among young adults. Three categories of factors were measured in this survey:entrepreneurial interests, individual characteristics, and contexts. Entrepreneurial interest factorsincluded Entrepreneurial Intent, Entrepreneurship Activities, and Career Goals. Individualcharacteristic factors included Innovation Orientation, Career Values, Self-Efficacy Optimism,and Future Orientation. Contextual factors included Family, Friends, Mentoring, and Extra-Curricular Activities. Effect sizes and p-values were calculated in comparisons of student sub-groups. Linear regression was used to examine how field, cohort, gender correlate with thesefactors.Preliminary results show that business students have higher rates of entrepreneurial intentionsthan do engineering students. However, among both engineering and business students, menwere more likely than women to report entrepreneurial intentions. Moreover, among engineers,the average score on Self-Efficacy Optimism is higher for men than for women; among businessstudents, average scores on Entrepreneurship Activities and Innovation Orientation are higher formen than for women (the opposite is true of Future Orientation). Results indicate that field andgender play a role in students’ entrepreneurship interests; implications for classroom design willbe discussed.ReferenceByers, T., Seelig, T., Sheppard, S., & Weilerstein, P. (2013). Entrepreneurship: Its Role in Engineering Education. Summer Issue of The Bridge on Undergraduate Engineering Education, 43(2), 35-40.

Jin, Q., & Gilmartin, S. K., & Sheppard, S. D., & Chen, H. L. (2014, June), Comparing Engineering and Business Undergraduate Students’ Entrepreneurial Interests and Characteristics Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20186

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