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Why Don’t Commuter-school Students Pursue Start-ups?

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


David G. Novick University of Texas, El Paso

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David G. Novick, Mike Loya Distinguished Chair in Engineering and Professor of Engineering Education and Leadership, earned his Harvard University in 1977 and his Ph.D. in Computer and Information Science at the University of Oregon in 1988. Before coming to UTEP he was on the faculty of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Oregon Graduate Institute and then Director of Research at the European Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Engineering. At UTEP he has served in a number of positions including as Chair of the Department of Computer Science, Associate Provost, Associate Dean of Engineering for Graduate Studies and Research, and co-director of the Mike Loya Center for Innovation and Commerce. His research focuses on interactive systems, especially human interaction with intelligent virtual agents, and on interaction in support of innovation. He served as General Co-chair of the ACM Conference on Universal Usability 2000, Program Chair of ACM SIG-DOC 2003 and General Chair of ACM SIG-DOC 2007, and organized SIGCHI's series of events in Natural Language Interfaces. He has authored or co-authored over 120 refereed publications and over $16 million in funded grant proposals.

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Why don’t commuter-school students pursue startups?

This paper reports the results of an empirical study of why student teams at commuter schools, particularly with underrepresented populations, do not pursue their course projects as startups. The study was conducted at a large public university at which 98% of undergraduate students commute to school, 84% are employed, and 80% are Hispanic-American. Interviews were conducted with 16 students in an engineering major, a participation rate of 47% of the subject pool. The interviews covered the students’ reasons for pursuing or not pursuing their course project after the conclusion of the course, reflection on factors that would encourage or discourage students from pursuing their projects, and employment status during and after the course. The results of the interviews were assessed through thematic content analysis. The interviews suggest that (1) that students do not continue with their projects because they cannot take time away from the paying jobs that are supporting their education, (2) that students completing their junior year do not want to take time away from their senior-year studies, and (3) that students completing their senior year do not want to take the risk of pursuing a startup when they could instead obtain a “real” job. Additionally, student startups appear to have been discouraged by their expectation in the courses, by the composition of the project teams, by lack of passion for their projects, and by uncertainty about the path forward.

Novick, D. G. (2019, June), Why Don’t Commuter-school Students Pursue Start-ups? Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33560

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