The blog is called “Bio & Beyond”, so this post is really about the “beyond” part.
Currently I am working as a student enterprise and marketing intern at London Met, and you can find more about my daily work on the blog I am running with other faculty interns.
As a part of my role, I attended a conference, called “Embedding an Enterprising Curriculum across the University or College”, organised by EEUK & HEEG.
I studied science and the word “business” scares me. Sounded a bit like an “AA” meeting intro, didn’t it? The issue is that non-business subject students see words “enterprise” & “business” as synonyms. They might be, and you will soon see, vocabulary is a tricky issue when it comes to embedding enterprise in curriculum. It puts students off. It used to put me off too. But as a part of my internship I need to find a way to engage science students in enterprise and make them less afraid of the concept of it. I think I am quite a good example of it, because even though I studied biomedical science, I doubt I will ever work in the lab because it doesn’t attract me that much anymore. (We have to make a decision on what to study at the age of 18-20: what on earth do we know then?)
Enterprise is innovation, not necessarily business. You running a student society is entrepreneurial, anything that requires you to think outside the box is entrepreneurial, in my opinion.
The things I have in mind when talking about entrepreneurial mind are (adapted from Neil Coles presentation):
communication and strategy skills
creativity & innovation
opportunity recognition, creation and evaluation
decision making using critical analysis
implementation of ideas through leadership & management
“Selling” enterprise to non-business students is hard work. You got to be smart! Our students are not only scared of the word “business” but don’t respond very well to “enterprise” either, so we often use “employability” now, just to make sure the students listen till the end of the sentence.
What is the usual response? “I don’t have time for this enterprise stuff because I need to focus on my studies”. You are shaking your head now, aren’t you? I surely am!
Having slightly mixed thoughts and a responsibility to engage students at my faculty, I went to the conference to clear my head and get ideas from experienced enterprise educators.
it was really interesting to hear different institution-wide approaches to embedding enterprise into the curriculum.
Different univerisities manage student enterprise differently: some make it a part of an academic department while others attribute it to student services. Either way, the goal is to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in students, let it be through developing open elective modules, or incorporating enterprise into the existing ones and supporting the academics who are already doing it.
Having listened to Neil Coles, we could sum up that having an entrepreneurial mindset means that a student is capable of:
developing ideas and identifying opportunities
taking the initiative and making a difference
It is all about skill development, not what kind of career the student is planning to pursue (and let’s be honest, plans change anyway)
A lot of it seems common sense, however, unfortunately there are quite a few common challenges that many people face (adapted from the presentation by Dr Sarah Underwood):
GETTING GOING. First thing I had to do as an intern was to help my manager launch a new enterprise and employability brand at the faculty. It was…overwhelming. You have all those ideas of what you want to do and how you think it should happen but don’t know where and how to start. Advice? Just start. There is no easy way.
OVERCOMING THE LANGUAGE. Certain words put students off. While business students might be very fond of the”b” word, others will be reluctant to listen to you. Adapt to your environment and find a style that suits the particular audience you are talking to. I found that the word “employability” is quite accessible, though it doesn’t portray the whole entrepreneurial picture…
MEETING WITH SCEPTICISM. From staff as well as students. When I tell people what I do, they often look at me “funny”. Like, I am not working very hard or the work I do isn’t really that important. Dr Underwood said “Share early & often”. People just want you figured out. So share your work, involve them in it and show them that actually what you do is crucial to developing successful and confident students.
HITTING THE INSTITUTIONAL BARRIERS. Accreditation from professional bodies is very important nowadays and can be an easy argument used by sceptics: “Enterprise doesn’t fit into our accreditation requirements”. Well, have you tried fitting it in? Since enterprise can be a fairly flexible concept, chances are accreditation guidelines actually encourage you to embed it, if you read a little bit between the lines.
It was inspirational to hear the success stories of overcoming these challenges. They were many. They were great.