Want to give students a taste of what it’s like to pitch new ideas? That’s one of the goals of Erik Monsen, the Steven Grossman Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship at the School of Business Administration at the University of Vermont in Burlington.
Last spring he had students in his entrepreneurship and commercialization course hold a mock trade show by lining the halls of the business school building and pitching products to passers-by. They were hawking real inventions created by faculty at the University of Vermont, including a tool for cardiac stem cell grafting, a bamboo vertical wind turbine, and green building technology.
“If you have never done something before, it’s scary, so I try to equip students with tools in the classroom and then have them practice using those tools with real-life technologies and researchers,” says Monsen.
Monsen bases his conclusions on a study he completed with Philipp Sieger, assistant professor of family business at the Center for Family Business at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Together they analyzed data from 15,866 college and university students from 13 European countries. They found that students are more likely to become entrepreneurs if they believe they can succeed at doing so and have some control over the process and outcome.
“Founding one’s own firm involves high workload, responsibility burdens, and financial pressure, which might lead to stress, lack of a private life, and burnout,” notes Monsen. These conditions make it less likely that individuals who prefer a high degree of control will choose a career in entrepreneurship. By guiding students through the process of starting their own firms, experiential entrepreneurship education increases their confidence in their knowledge and abilities—and improves the likelihood that they’ll become entrepreneurs.
Monsen and Sieger also learned that roughly 55 percent of respondents planned to work for an existing firm, 32 percent aspired to start their own firms, and 13 percent wanted to become academics. Their study, “Founder, Academic, or Employee? A Nuanced Study of Career Choice Intentions” appeared in the October 2015 edition of the Journal of Small Business Management.