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Employer Perceptions of Undergraduate Student Entrepreneurial Experience

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Elizabeth Rose Morehouse Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Liz Morehouse is an assistant director in Career Services & Employer Relations at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She received a B.A. in Spanish and M.S. in Community Counseling from Northern Kentucky University in 2007 and 2009, respectively. She is an award-winning curriculum designer with significant experience providing leadership and career development opportunities for college students.

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

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Tom James is presently a Professor of Entrepreneurship at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. His major interests are new product development and global business ventures. He currently teaches courses in accounting, finance, and entrepreneurial studies. In addition to teaching, Dr. James directs the ESCALATE program, a living-learning community focused on integrating entrepreneurship and technical disciplines. He received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering and an Executive MBA from Marquette University. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and is a registered Professional Engineer (PE). Dr. James is also an avid inventor with over two dozen patents and he has several publications in peer reviewed journals related to his research in biomechanical systems. Prior to joining academia, he worked for over a decade in the consumer products industry, most recently as Senior Vice President of Global Engineering at Techtronic Industries, headquartered in Hong Kong, where he lived with his family for several years.

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Promotion of the entrepreneurial mindset has been said to enhance engineering educational outcomes. Cultivating curiosity, integrating disparate ideas and opportunities, and persisting through failure to create value are key characteristics of the entrepreneurial mindset (KEEN, 2018). Across the country, undergraduate engineering programs are pursuing the integration of entrepreneurial studies within STEM curriculum. Private and public institutions are supplementing a didactic education (e.g. earning a Minor in Entrepreneurship) with co-curricular activities, such as encouraging engineering student participation in related student organizations, in themed living learning communities, in entrepreneurship competitions, in internships at startups, and in networking events with alumni entrepreneurs, to name a few. Finally, within the last few years, there has been an upsurge in physical spaces created to support on-campus startups and networking with entrepreneurs-in-residence. These so called co-working spaces are now commonplace at most large universities and are making inroads at smaller institutions.

As students are participating in the multitude of entrepreneurial opportunities available, the results are being codified on their resumes and transcripts. How are employers, specifically STEM employers, interpreting these curricular and co-curricular entrepreneurial experiences? While institutions of higher education have embraced the entrepreneurial wave, we question the perception of employers. Are the entrepreneurial experiences viewed as a possible asset or potential threat? Available literature does not readily provide a conclusive answer.

Utilizing both a quantitative and qualitative approach, employers recruiting at a top engineering institute were surveyed. Through a survey instrument, a sample of convenience was pursued through engagement with employers that attend career fairs at our institution with the intent to hire undergraduates pursuing a math, science, or engineering degree. The Likert-scale survey focuses on perceptions of employers as it relates to entrepreneurship experience as expressed by students on their resume. Preliminary results indicate employers generally view entrepreneurial studies as a surrogate for business education, and this is viewed favorably. However, employers also indicated an assumption that students with demonstrated entrepreneurial intent during their undergraduate years are likely to leave their company much sooner than traditional engineering graduates. The results of this research are insightful for educators, directors of entrepreneurial programs, and career services and employer relations departments.

Morehouse, E. R., & James, T. P. (2019, June), Employer Perceptions of Undergraduate Student Entrepreneurial Experience Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32705

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