The six academic teams came from across the globe: some from universities in South America, others from former republics of the Soviet Union. But regardless of their homeland, each delegation saw potential in their engineering students and flew all the way to Stanford to learn how to seed an entrepreneurial ecosystem on their native soil.
The six teams comprised the first cohort of a new offering by the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) called the Faculty Fellows Program. Over their two-week visit, STVP-affiliated faculty advised the teams on how to implement entrepreneurship studies in class, create extracurricular educational experiences and address practical issues such as navigating their universities’ bureaucracies.
The new program, one of STVP’s global-outreach efforts, welcomed faculty from universities in Armenia, China, Colombia, Lithuania, Mexico and Uruguay – as well as academic professionals and industry partners also interested in spurring entrepreneurship in the aforementioned countries.
From July 29 to Aug. 9, they took part in a rich array of activities, including mentor sessions with consulting professors in the Stanford School of Engineering’s Department of Management Science and Engineering (MS&E). They also visited startups in Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
During opening presentations on day one, the group from Armenia – a relatively small nation that has seen slow growth in entrepreneurship since the fall of Communism – began by describing how conditions are now ripe in their country to create a culture of innovation. For instance, Armenia currently boasts 360 companies in the information and communications technology sector, with almost two-thirds specializing in software development.
“The idea of coming to Stanford was how can we better implement [a] tech-ventures program,” said Rafael Lorenzo, director of innovation and entrepreneurship at a business park in Mexico operated by the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.
The teams also attended workshops in design thinking and creativity, as well as a presentation on Stanford’s approach to entrepreneurship education by MS&E Professor Tom Byers. The teams worked together on entrepreneurship-education projects that they planned to implement upon their return home, and throughout the visit, they gathered feedback and insights to incorporate into their work.
“The Faculty Fellows Program works within an important part of STVP’s mission, to support entrepreneurship education at a global level.”Rebecca Edwards, STVP’s manager of global programs, said the Faculty Fellows Program aims to provide professors and administrators in other countries with a forum to think deeply about cultivating an entrepreneurial ecosystem within their universities – while learning from peers from around the world.
“The Faculty Fellows Program works within an important part of STVP’s mission, to support entrepreneurship education at a global level,” Edwards said. “Our students come from all over the world and graduate into a global community, and so it’s our responsibility to participate in the conversation with our colleagues from around the world.”
The team from Lithuania was led by Professor Monika Petraite, dean of the social sciences faculty at Kaunas University of Technology. The campus has about 12,000 students – many coming from Kazakhstan and countries in the Middle East – and a teaching staff of just over 1,000. During her team’s opening presentation on July 29, she discussed the need for entrepreneurship education in the university’s engineering curriculum.
Actually, an entrepreneurial ecosystem appears to be taking root in Lithuania. Kaunas has an “entrepreneurial development center” that it has established in partnership with Aalto University in Finland; and in 2010, Kaunas began work on an integrated technology, science and education center.
But despite these and other efforts, Petraite said the university has failed to build up a “constant flow” of entrepreneurial activities. The challenge, she explained, was figuring out how to implement entrepreneurship education and related activities broadly across the curriculum.
“There is a lot of movement, and there is a lot of hope and energy towards entrepreneurship and innovation,” Petraite said of the current business climate in Lithuania. “Our 21st century economy requires much more entrepreneurial leadership from our engineering students.”
Two weeks later, Petraite and her teammates began the cohort’s closing-presentations session with a five-point outline for implementing their plan. It included enlisting 10 instructors, leveraging their university’s 130,000-member alumni community and launching a visiting-lecture program that will help students sharpen their English. They also listed blogging as a way to generate interest among potential students.
Other teams also expressed optimism after two weeks of being immersed in Stanford’s entrepreneurial culture and engaging with its faculty and peers from the other campuses. This included the team from Armenia, which consisted of a top administrator from the American University of Armenia and two representatives from the local business community.
“The STVP program has helped us better understand how we should establish our entrepreneurship center, the aspects of focus and where we should start,” said Sona Martirosyan, an education-projects coordinator at the Microsoft Innovation Center in Armenia. “We’re more than convinced that this project is going to be a success thanks to the joint efforts, time and resources invested in the Faculty Fellows Program.”
See more photos from the Faculty Fellows Program on STVP’s Facebook page.