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Using an Intention–Uncertainty Matrix to Categorize Entrepreneurship Education Offerings

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division – Epicenter Session

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1658.1 - 26.1658.14



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Paper Authors


Jacob Dean Wheadon Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Jacob Wheadon is a PhD candidate in engineering education at Purdue University. His current research focuses on understanding the benefits of entrepreneurship education for engineering students. He has a BS degree in manufacturing engineering technology and an MS degree in technology and engineering education from Brigham Young University. Before pursuing graduate studies, he worked as an industrial engineer and earned the Six Sigma Black Belt from the American Society for Quality.

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Nathalie Duval-Couetil Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Nathalie Duval-Couetil is the Director of the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, Associate Director of the Burton D. Morgan Center, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Technology Leadership and Innovation at Purdue University. She is responsible for the launch and development of the university’s multidisciplinary undergraduate entrepreneurship program, which has involved over 5000 students from all majors since 2005. She has established entrepreneurship capstone, global entrepreneurship, and women and leadership courses and initiatives at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Prior to her work in academia, Nathalie spent several years in the field of market research and business strategy consulting in Europe and the United States with Booz Allen and Hamilton and Data and Strategies Group. She received a BA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an MBA from Babson College, and MS and PhD degrees from Purdue University. She currently serves on the board of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship in the role of Vice President for Research. She is also a Senior Research Advisor to the Stanford University Epicenter.

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Using an intention-uncertainty matrix to categorize entrepreneurship education offerings. As the demand for entrepreneurial engineering students has increased in recent years, so has the availability of entrepreneurship education for engineering students. As researchers have sought to understand and articulate the benefits and outcomes of entrepreneurship education, there has been a lack of agreement on what is expected of an engineer who participates in such programs. For the program to be successful, does the student need to have started a new firm, or to just know a lot about entrepreneurship? Do they need to understand how to be entrepreneurial within a large engineering organization? What if they start a business in a non-technical field? Has the program failed if its graduates never really participate in any entrepreneurial endeavors, but leave school with better professional skills and business acumen?This paper argues for a broad definition of entrepreneurship programs that encompasses a wide range of outcomes and pedagogies. It proposes a framework for categorizing entrepreneurship education programs to create a common language among researchers, administrators, and students. With these categorizations, entrepreneurship programs can identify their intended outcomes and align them with the needs, experience levels, and desires of their students.This framework categorizes entrepreneurship programs along two dimensions: intention to start anew firm and the level of uncertainty in the area in which the student participates. These two dimensions create four quadrants into which entrepreneurship programs can be categorized to align the intentions of students, instructors, and administrators. Categorized emphases in entrepreneurship education goals Current intention to start new firms Low High Small business Traditional business Low creation and skills programs Level of management uncertainty in the Intrapreneurship, value proposition corporate Startup incubators, High entrepreneurship workshops, etc. programs Categorizing along intention to start firms helps to differentiate between intensive startup experiences where students are guided in actively creating a new venture and more skills-based experiences where students learn about creativity, innovation, and business skills without actually starting a venture during the semester. Prior research has shown that some students who are ready to start new ventures are impatient with more skills-based courses. On the other hand students who are interested in entrepreneurship, but do not currently have the ideas or the confidence to start a firm may be intimidated by more intensive offerings.The level of uncertainty in the value proposition is important because the strategies that are employed differ greatly based on its predictability. For example, a student wishing to start a structural engineering firm that services local architects and builders will pursue a very different strategy than one who creates a new mobile application that has an unknown (or possibly non-existent) market.In addition to describing this framework in more detail, this paper demonstrates examples of each quadrant in the matrix, and provides potential program structures that administrators can use to develop and refine entrepreneurship offerings.

Wheadon, J. D., & Duval-Couetil, N. (2015, June), Using an Intention–Uncertainty Matrix to Categorize Entrepreneurship Education Offerings Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24994

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