Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?

While the practice of Entrepreneurship is thousands of years old, the teaching of Entrepreneurship at the University level is relatively new. The science + art of Entrepreneurship is a fascinating area of study, but can students really be taught to be entrepreneurs, or are they just born with the skills or inclination?

Academicians around the globe continue to debate this question. Yet, a recent study by Babson University says that the study of Entrepreneurship can profoundly encourage students to become Entrepreneurs. The study of 3,755 Babson alumni reports that if students take just two Entrepreneurship classes at the University, the students are very likely to consider, if not pursue start-ups. Also, the simple practice of writing a business plan in the classroom can have a similar influence, though not as strong.

My personal experience as a long time instructor of Entrepreneurship at CSUF has yielded a few observations about the students who choose to study Entrepreneurship. Most of our students seem to choose this area of study because of an intense desire to create something of significance that they can own. They want to be different and they would prefer not to got to work at a large bank or a giant corporation. They want to do their own thing.

It is my observation that the students’ decision to study new venture development is also supported by their family and peer groups. Additionally, it is no coincidence that many of our Entrepreneurship students are the sons and daughters of small business owners.

Finally, my work with this cohort of aspiring entrepreneurs finds we witness to another dynamic that I refer to as “the spark.” There is a certain electricity that young entrepreneurs exhibit that combines creativity and enthusiasm along with action. I must emphasize the component of action: a defining characteristic of an entrepreneur is that they go do it. Everyone has a great idea now and then, but entrepreneurs take that idea and run with it. They create new ventures.

So, yes, I agree that Entrepreneurship can be taught, but it may be best taught to those who have the desire and the personal support system, along with with “the spark.”

John Bradley Jackson
CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship


0 responses to “Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?”

  1. From my experience running and developing the innovative BSc Business Enterprise (BBE) at the University of Buckingham in UK, I completely agree with your comments.

    I have found that encouraging my undergraduate BBE students to “Just do it!” (Thanks Nike!) is a great approach.

    Though on their first day, I do suggest two limits:
    Your activities will not get:
    1) The University of Buckingham into disrepute!
    2) Me or the BBE Secretary in prison!

    Since the BBE programme started in January 2008 all BBEs have followed my two requests!

    One other point, I feel that my students also mature and learn more quickly, as they have the opportunity to study academic theories, try them out in practice immediately and then often criticise them!

    • Three things come to mind:

      1. I suppose what the students say is a good predictor of the teacher’s competence.
      2. Experience as an instructor is important since teaching is a learned skill.
      3. Of course, experience as an entrepreneur is critical. I am reminded of what a former boss once told me. He said, “It is one thing to watch a bullfight and another to be a bullfighter.”

      John Bradley Jackson
      Director of Center for Entrepreneurship

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