Leonhard Center faculty receive grant to study entrepreneurship

August 15, 2022

By Mariah Chuprinski

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Researchers in the Penn State Leonhard Center for Enhancement of Engineering Education received $19,000 from the National Science Foundation, as part of a grant totaling about $100,000 awarded to VentureWell. The Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization encourages innovation and entrepreneurship within STEM through collaboration, training and resources, according to their website.

The collaboration came as a follow-up study to a 2021 review paper authored by Leonhard Center faculty in Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy, in which they analyzed the last 10 years of STEM entrepreneurship education literature with a focus on how academic programs described their intended learning outcomes, such as increased creativity or better ethics.

For the current project, co-principal investigators Sarah Zappe, assistant dean for teaching and learning in the Penn State College of Engineering and director of the Leonhard Center, and Stephanie Cutler, director of assessment and instructional support in the Leonhard Center, will collaborate with co-principal investigator Chithra Adams, director of learning and evaluation at VentureWell, to design a Delphi study. The qualitative research method brings together a focus group of experts on a subject to identify themes and best practices. In this case, the participants will identify the most important outcomes of any STEM-based entrepreneurship course or program, such as improved creativity, curiosity, ethics, teamwork or communication.

“We found through our previous study that there were major problems relating to the quality of the research conducted in the field, the lack of grounding in social sciences and the lack of focus on diversity,” Zappe said. “We want to try to make it easier for engineering entrepreneurship practitioners to access relevant social science literature to help guide the development and evaluation of their programs.”

After the desired outcomes are identified by the Delphi study, Zappe’s team will host engineering entrepreneurship workshops to discuss the most relevant theories, measurement tools and resources to achieve a specific outcome. From these discussions, the group will then develop a set of resources that practitioners can use in the development and evaluation of their respective entrepreneurship programs, according to Cutler.

“We hope that these resources will provide guidance on how to engage students from underrepresented groups in engineering entrepreneurship programs,” Cutler said. “We also will strive to provide guidance for program evaluation and accreditation, as well as how to conceptualize and measure certain educational constructs in STEM-related entrepreneurship.”


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