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Lawrence Tech wins $1.1 million grant to transform engineering education, strengthen entrepreneurial experience

Release Date: February 24, 2009

Southfield, Mich. - The Kern Family Foundation of Waukesha, Wisc., has awarded a five-year, $1,154,500 grant to Lawrence Technological University to further integrate entrepreneurial education into the curriculum of the university's College of Engineering.

All undergraduate engineering students at Lawrence Tech will receive a comprehensive entrepreneurship education when the curriculum changes are completed.

"The goal is to produce well-rounded engineers who possess solid technical knowledge as well as an understanding of entrepreneurial opportunities and how to pursue them," said Timothy Kriewall, program director of engineering entrepreneurship at the Kern Family Foundation. "Lawrence Tech has come up with an exciting plan for offering both sides to all undergraduate engineering students."

The Kern grant will enable Lawrence Tech to advance with changes to its engineering curriculum that have been under way for several years, according to Lawrence Tech President Lewis N. Walker.

"We are honored that the Kern Family Foundation supports us in expanding this value-added distinction that enhances engineering education at Lawrence Tech," Walker said.

Lawrence Tech will use the Kern grant to achieve three ambitious goals: transform the educational experience of undergraduate engineering students in order to develop the entrepreneurial mindset; change the culture of the faculty and the university leadership involved in engineering education; and provide an infrastructure to encourage and support entrepreneurial activities for undergraduate engineering students.

To achieve those goals, Lawrence Tech will use the Kern grant to make major changes in engineering education at the undergraduate level. It will:

  • Modify 30 courses taken by engineering students to introduce pedagogical methods and/or content to develop both the knowledge and the practice of attributes that define the entrepreneurial mindset.
  • Introduce multidisciplinary student projects that contain entrepreneurial components.
  • Establish an entrepreneur-in-residence program.
  • Create an entrepreneurial co-op and internship program.
  • Establish a regional innovation competition, Entrepreneurs Quest.
  • Hold entrepreneurial mindset workshops for faculty and university leadership.

Lawrence Tech Provost Maria Vaz, the principal investigator for the Kern grant, explained that the entrepreneurial mindset starts with critical thinking, creativity and innovation. Entrepreneurs also must understand basic business practices, have experience working in and leading interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teams, be able to listen and communicate effectively, and have the ability to incorporate input and feedback from diverse perspectives and cultures.  Entrepreneurs must understand how to develop and bring products to market.

"These attributes are not learned in books, but rather through practice in different settings," Vaz said. "We will achieve our vision of graduating engineering students with an entrepreneurial mindset by changing the methodologies and pedagogy in the classroom and through co-curricular experiences."

Over the past five years, other grants from the Kern Family Foundation have helped Lawrence Tech improve the engineering educational experience in a number of ways, and students and faculty have participated in activities sponsored by the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN). KEEN's mission is to graduate engineers equipped with an entrepreneurial mindset who will contribute to business success and in so doing transform the U.S. workforce.

"These initiatives at Lawrence Tech are filling a gap in engineering education. Producing engineers who are technically proficient has never been a problem in America, but today's world requires more than that," Kriewall said. "The Kern Family Foundation wants to help America retain its prominence in technology and maintain its economic strength by cultivating social awareness and the values of free enterprise among graduating engineers."

Established in 1999, the Kern Family Foundation's mission is to build the future through values, education, and innovation. In keeping with the vision of its founders, Drs. Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern, the Kern Family Foundation seeks to enrich the lives of others by promoting strong pastoral leadership, educational excellence, and high-quality, innovative engineering talent. The Foundation aims to effect systemic change through broad-impact, long-term initiatives, including Education Reform, K-12 STEM Education, the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network, American History, Economics & Religion, and the Pastoral Ministry Program.

Lawrence Technological University,, offers over 80 undergraduate, master's and doctoral degree programs in Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management. Founded in 1932, the 4,500-student, private university pioneered evening classes 75 years ago, and today has a growing number of weekend and online programs. Lawrence Tech's 102-acre campus is in Southfield, with education centers in Lansing, Livonia, Clinton Township, Traverse City and Petoskey. Lawrence Tech also offers programs with partner universities in Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.