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Kern Family Foundation Backs Entrepreneurial Education Projects

Two new grants will help The Ohio State University strengthen its commitment to preparing its engineering graduates with both the right skillset and mindset necessary for success.

Awarded by the Kern Family Foundation (KFF), the grants will help build on the momentum of a previously funded KFF pilot project to embed entrepreneurial minded learning (EML) into core engineering courses.

In 2017, Ohio State’s College of Engineering joined the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN), a coalition of nearly 50 engineering programs across the country committed to preparing students with an entrepreneurial mindset, which consists of three key elements: curiosity, connections and creating value. This mindset—coupled with a solid technical and professional foundation—is an essential part of an engineering skill set and will empower Ohio State graduates to navigate a rapidly changing world and interdisciplinary careers.

The newly funded projects draw upon Ohio State’s expertise in formal learning, faculty development and research assessment. Both projects will result in faculty exploring ways to incorporate EML in their courses and provide consistent EML-based education to students across the engineering curriculum.

The “Institutionalization and Expansion of Entrepreneurially Minded Learning from the First-Year to Capstone” project will receive $1,031,700 in funding over two years. Led by Professor and Department of Engineering Education (EED) Chair Monica F. Cox, it will extend the reach of the successful pilot program to first-year engineering and senior capstone sections across the college, enabling Ohio State to accelerate and scale existing efforts. The pilot study involved 11 sections of Fundamentals of Engineering II, a first-year engineering course, and included 792 students, six faculty, six graduate teaching associates and 44 undergraduate teaching assistants. Co-PIs on the expansion project include Associate Chair and Professor Lisa Abrams, Assistant Professor of Practice Krista Kecskemety and Assistant Professor Rachel Kajfez, all from the EED, and Assistant Vice Provost Alan Kalish from the university’s Office of Academic Affairs.

“Ohio State has demonstrated a long-lasting commitment to EML among its faculty, staff and students,” said Cox. “One of our strategic objectives is to provide students with more experiential and collaborative learning opportunities, and to expand research and assessment efforts in EML. With significant input from industry partners and faculty, we understand that applying EML elements and focusing on KEEN’s educational framework will help us meet this need.”

“Expanding Integration of Entrepreneurial Minded Learning: Faculty Learning Communities for Improving Mentoring Skills” will receive nearly $100,000 in funding over two years. Led by Professor Gonul Kaletunc, director of the college’s Faculty Professional Development Program, the project aims to develop a faculty mentoring model that can be adapted by engineering colleges to infuse all undergraduate curricula with EML. The primary goal is to mentor selected faculty to develop new courses or revise existing ones, incorporating entrepreneurial mindset strategies into course content and prepare them to mentor other faculty in the college. Cox and Kalish will serve as Co-PIs on the project, along with Professor and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Rachel Kleit, and Professor and Assistant Dean of Teaching and Learning Ann Christy.

Based on findings from the pilot study, research teams are optimistic about the next phase of EML implementation. Among the initial student participants in the pilot, which explored the impact of EML versus traditional teaching, results indicated several benefits, with EML students performing better in technical applications than their non-EML peers. Additionally, students were more curious about the social world around them after taking the EML version of the course.

“Specifically, we found that although students initially demonstrated a performance mentality, like finding the ‘right’ answer, the entrepreneurial mindset intervention groups were more adept at connecting their classroom work to real-world concepts,” said Patrick Herak, EED senior lecturer and course coordinator of Fundamentals of Engineering II. “Additionally, the intervention groups could apply the problem definition process more effectively than students in the traditionally taught sections.”

To learn more information about EML and Ohio State’s partnership with KEEN, visit

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications |