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New grant extends entrepreneurial education at Lawrence Tech

Release Date: April 15, 2014
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LTU Provost Maria Vaz

Lawrence Technological University has received a three-year $697,000 grant from the Wisconsin-based Kern Family Foundation to support further expansion of entrepreneurial-minded learning in the curricula for undergraduate engineering students.

This is the final phase of a series of grants adding up to over $2.4 million from the Kern Family Foundation that began in 2003. The goal is to incorporate the entrepreneurial mindset into undergraduate engineering education at LTU.

“We believe that this final phase of support will result in a comprehensive entrepreneurial education experience for our engineering undergraduates,” said LTU Provost Maria Vaz, the principal investigator for two of the Kern grants including the most recent one.

A key component of the program supported by previous grants is the modification of close to 50 courses with problem-based learning and active-and-collaborative learning within an entrepreneurial context. Classroom work has been supplemented by co-curricular and extra-curricular entrepreneurial activities such as internships and industry-sponsored projects.

Lawrence Tech has also modified the freshman introduction to engineering course into an interdisciplinary design studio experience which incorporates the foundations of entrepreneurially minded learning. “Having the students solve open-ended design problems and learning how to ask the right questions of a customer are critical entrepreneurial skills that students engage in right from the beginning of their college education,” said Civil Engineering Professor Donald Carpenter, co-principal investigator for the grant.

The latest phase of this ongoing academic enhancement has four major components:

• Development and institutionalization of a multidisciplinary sophomore experience utilizing the principles of a project-based studio environment to instill an enterprising attitude in students.
• Integration of opportunities for entrepreneurial-minded education in the junior year that will link the required freshmen and sophomore entrepreneurial design studios with the senior capstone project.
• Exploration of integration of entrepreneurial-minded, problem-based learning problems that are currently part of fundamental science courses into the sophomore entrepreneurial engineering design studio experiences and into the junior year curriculum.
• Implementation of a focused training process for other faculty so that all other students at LTU will have the same educational experience across the curriculum.

Vaz said the Kern grants have affected the culture of LTU’s faculty and leadership, which has enabled the transformation of the students’ educational experience. “We want to make sure that as many faculty as possible are trained so that there are no gaps in a student’s curriculum and every student has the same experience,” she said.