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There are plenty of ways to teach community college students entrepreneurial skills. You can use a textbook. You can bring in successful entrepreneurs to tell there stories. Internships are always a good idea.
Or you can have students build their own business from scratch, from researching products to writing a business plan to building a website and taking charge of marketing and accounting.
That’s what is happening at the State University of New York Ulster where students in two sections of Mindy Kole’s Principals of Entrepreneurship class are planning to launch a business on Nov. 21. It will be called Community Creations, a kiosk to be located in the school’s cafeteria from which students will peddle works from local artisans on a consignment basis.
Kole outlined her learning by doing approach at the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship conference under way in Charlotte, N.C.
Kole, director of her college’s Pfeiffer Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, said she hopes empowering students to design and launch a business will result in meaningful learning — even though Community Creations will be part of the college, freeing it from some of the obstacles that would confront full-fledged startups.
“They are not getting every single touchpoint they would get in a regular business, but they are learning a lot more than they would from a textbook,” she said.
This kind of experiential learning has stressed time and again at the conference, which has drawn about 500 college leaders from around the country. Attendees have been told that learning-by-doing can result in meaningful learning experiences.
In Kole’s class, split into two sections, students required to take part in the business launch. Their learning will be measured by a series of rubrics that Kole has developed, and their role in the business launch will make up a significant part of their grade.
Students are now in the final stages of starting the business. Kole said she’ll be relieved once the business gets off the ground.
“This is a scary big project,” she said. “I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this.”