In 2007, Villanova University College of Engineering was awarded a grant of $50,000 from The Kern Family Foundation to implement the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN) initiative at Villanova. Four years later, the Foundation awarded the College a $625,000 grant to provide students with access to new intrapreneurship development and intercollegiate entrepreneurship opportunities. Beginning in 2014, a $439,000 Kern Family Foundation grant will support the College’s goal of introducing all engineering students to entrepreneurially minded learning at the University, in KEEN, and beyond.
Gary A. Gabriele, PhD, Drosdick Endowed Dean of the College of Engineering, defines an engineer with an “entrepreneurial mindset” is one who exercises curiosity about the changing world and defines problems, opportunities and solutions in terms of value creation. Entrepreneurially minded engineers consider societal, technological and economic trends and seek creative ways to integrate them in order to provide solutions to problems that will drive new economic growth and benefit society. Producing entrepreneurially minded engineers is a strategic plan initiative for the College of Engineering, and with generous assistance from The Kern Family Foundation, a great deal of progress has been made in this regard. The College has imbedded KEEN-based entrepreneurship into its engineering curriculum, created the popular Engineering Entrepreneurship minor, and forged partnerships with nearly all of the eighteen KEEN institutions. Through the Helping Hands Dense Network (HHDN) collaboration with the University of Dayton, the University of Detroit Mercy, and Baylor University, Villanova engineering students have had the opportunity to engage in joint senior design projects with peers at partner universities. In addition, Villanova has leveraged support from The Kern Family Foundation to raise additional funds for entrepreneurial activities in the College and across campus.
With this new grant, the College of Engineering will embark upon a two-year plan to substantially increase the infusion of entrepreneurially minded engineering skills into core undergraduate courses. In combination with the College’s strategic initiative to increase the use of the inverted classroom model in our core curriculum, the new grant will help faculty introduce KEEN entrepreneurially minded learning (EML) into their course exercises. The goal is for students to not only become proficient in an engineering topic, but to also be curious about how what they are learning can be used to solve new problems. During the two-year program, the goal is to have 24 faculty members re-imagine the use of class time in the inverted classroom environment, and to imbed new EML modules into eight core courses and eight specialized engineering courses. These modules will impact all undergraduate engineering students at Villanova, approximately 1,000 students. Related materials and techniques focused on KEEN student outcomes and engineering skills will be designed and developed with the input of KEEN program staff and Villanova’s Institute for Teaching and Learning (VITAL). The efforts will be applicable and available to all KEEN schools.