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The Roots of Entrepreneurial Career Goals among Today's Engineering Undergraduate Students

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Gunther Rameseder Stanford University

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Gunther Rameseder, MSc., studied Mathematics at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Universidad de Barcelona (UB). His majors were Mathematical Finance, Statistics and Operations Research with a minor in Economics. During his studies, Gunther gained loads of industry experience at Allianz, Roland Berger, UnternehmerTUM and Finleap where he was involved in projects regarding the digital transformation of organizations as well as corporate venturing. Gunther joined the Designing Education Lab to learn more about the drivers of entrepreneurial career goals of students and entrepreneurship in general. Since 2016 he is working full-time for Celonis, an innovative Process Mining software company based in Munich.

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Sheri 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 2011 Dr. Sheppard 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 recently served as Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

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Maximilian Reithmann MR Celonis

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Max joined the Designing Education Lab at Stanford University in 2015 to find out more about the roots of entrepreneurial spirit. Today he works at CELONIS. As a business development manager he brings innovative technology to businesses around the globe.

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Eric Reynolds Brubaker Stanford University Orcid 16x16

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Eric is a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford interested in engineering design, manufacturing, entrepreneurship, and engineering education. From 2011 to 2016, Eric worked at MIT D-Lab where he co-developed and taught two courses and was a lab instructor in Mechanical Engineering. Additionally, he managed the MIT D-Lab Scale-Ups hardware venture accelerator supporting full-time social entrepreneurs primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa and India. Eric has worked extensively in less-industrialized economies, most notably Zambia. Previously, he worked at Battelle Memorial Institute and New England Complex Systems Institute. A proud Buckeye, Eric is a graduate of The Ohio State University (BSME 2009) and recipient of a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2016).

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More and more engineering students are starting their own business after graduating from university instead of joining existing companies. While the benefits of a healthy entrepreneurial culture to a progressing society and a competitive economy are widely acknowledged, little is known about the entrepreneurs themselves and their pathways. The analyses in this research paper examines the spread and roots of entrepreneurial career goals among today’s undergraduate engineering students. We identify how sociocognitive measures, e.g. students’ self-efficacy beliefs and outcome expectations, their interest in innovation, , learning experiences at university and individual background and characteristics affect their entrepreneurial career focus.

This research paper makes use of data collected as part of the Engineering Majors Survey (EMS), a national survey distributed to engineering students across 27 U.S. universities in 2015, which received over 7,000 responses.. This study is grounded in the theoretical framework of Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) by Lent, Brown, and Hackett (1994). his theoretical framework uses sociocognitive factors to map the complex process of career choice, and shows how it is linked to external influences such as diverse background characteris, contexts and different support structures.. The EMS included constructs addressing these sociocognitive factors and external sources of influence. We connect this model to recent findings from the literature about the roots of engineering students intention to become starters of new ventures (Lintl et al., 2015) and fundamental research about students’ innovation and entrepreneurial skills (Duval-Couetil & Dyrenfurth, 2012; Dyer, Gregersen, & Christensen, 2011) which have been identified as central mechanisms in our model. Therefore, we group students who are highly motivated to start their own business as starters and students who are more likely to join an existing organization as joiners.

The first step in the analyses includes a description of the demographic characteristics of the starter and joiner groups and their sociocognitive and contextual factors. The findings suggest that starters are driven by higher interests in innovation, it is very important to them to be involved in innovation practices in their early career and they show stronger self-efficacy beliefs than joiners. Males are overrepresented among the starters and, for example, particular learning experiences such as discussing and promoting new business ideas with other students or faculty members have an highly significant relationship to be a starter. The same applies for students’ who are engaging in courses covering topics around entrepreneurship and innovation. In the second step follow-up analyses will examine the relationships between the previously identified sociocognitive factors and entrepreneurial career goals. The long term educational implications of this research study will be discussed.

Rameseder, G., & Sheppard, S., & Reithmann, M., & Brubaker, E. R. (2017, June), The Roots of Entrepreneurial Career Goals among Today's Engineering Undergraduate Students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29009

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