Purpose—The purpose is to discuss the implementation of a design-driven ‘enterprise education’ program within two contexts: (1) a novel learning model emphasising innovation and entrepreneurship within an American regional comprehensive university; (2) a novel learning structure eliminating departments, school, and colleges in favour of a cross-disciplinary approach—in favour of an Integrated Cluster model.
Methodology/approach—The paper describes a novel entrepreneurship education learning model called Transformative Innovation & Design Entrepreneurship (TIDE). This singular case study reviews best practices in entrepreneurship education and proposes a course of study specific to an Integrated Cluster learning model. It focuses on the history and context of the case institution and concludes with a discussion of the problematics of implementing such a programme.
Findings—Design-based entrepreneurship education is used widely to promote creativity-and innovation-driven regional economic development. We profile the evolution of Plymouth State University, which has broken down academic silos by reorganizing the curriculum around cross-disciplinary Integrated Clusters. This is a case analysis of how an American regional comprehensive university can advance a new Learning Model that diffuses the tension between departments while advancing an innovation and entrepreneurship agenda.
Keywords—Entrepreneurship education, design-driven pedagogy, transformative innovation, regional comprehensive university, land-grant university, start-up, integrated clusters, educational philosophy, practice-based approach.
Plymouth State University Institutional Context
Here, we recount the institutional history of Plymouth State University and outline its innovative and novel learning model.
This story is similar to other case analyses across the world that have examined the implementation design-based entrepreneurship education. The present author finds himself helping to build a design-based entrepreneurship education programme at Plymouth State University, an American state university in New Hampshire. Located in the Boston metropolitan area, Plymouth State University started as a teachers college, became a training ground for agriculture, teaching, business, and industry. PSU is now a regional comprehensive university (RCU), what some call a ‘people’s university’ in recognition of its mission to give lower-and middle-income students access to higher education, not to mention to support regional economies and civic and cultural life. About 430 regional comprehensive universities are spread across U.S. states and territories. Forty per cent of them are historically black.
Regional comprehensive universities play important roles in injecting ‘high impact practices’ into the regional economy. They lower the barriers to admission to a higher education. They prize teaching and student-centered projects over research. They enroll the largest proportion of underrepresented—including veterans, adult learners, ethnic minorities, first-generation students, and immigrants. Regional comprehensive universities buoy area economies and respond to regional workforce needs. RCU’s confer 30% of business degrees, 26% of computer and information sciences degrees, 31% of foreign languages degrees, and 27% of mathematics degrees. Regional universities also act as incubators where entrepreneurs and business leaders can receive support and faculty expertise. ‘RCU Curriculum Transformation’ studies are emerging.
In terms of PSU’s institutional context, at times, such universities are sometimes unfairly belittled as an “undistinguished middle child” of higher education. RCU’s have sought during the last twenty years a way out of that characterization. The wrong ‘solution’ was chosen: to elevate research standards or imitate elite institutions. A better solution would be to dedicate the mission to regional economic improvement. One solution would be for New Hampshire’s General Court (Legislature) to enhance support, so PSU can continue to pursue its distinctive missions of enlarging college access and serving the economic and civic needs of surrounding regions.
In historical terms, PSU was founded in 1871 under the Morrill Act (1862) signed by President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The Morrill Act gave 30,000 acres of Federal land within each Congressional district, whose proceeds could be used to fund public colleges focused on ‘agriculture and the mechanical arts’. As part of the University System of New Hampshire (USNH), PSU is also part of the hundred-plus land-grant universities network, whose mission originally was—within the context of the liberal arts—to teach practical engineering, agriculture, and science and to accelerate the rise of America’s nineteenth-century ‘Industrial Revolution’. These institutions generated the transformative innovations needed to propel America’s emergence as economic world leader by 1900.
Plymouth State University serves New Hampshire and the New England region (USA). In AY2018, PSU enrolled 4,100 undergraduates and 750 graduate students in undergraduate, masters, and doctoral programmes. Forty-three per cent of the student body is first-generation students and 39% of students are low income.
Since 2015, structural problems in the US economy have seen PSU facing many challenges. At 43 years, New Hampshire has the second highest median age (nationally it is 38). The 18–64 workforce is abandoning the state. Meanwhile, New Hampshire has a very low unemployment rate. Expanding economic productivity, or even keeping it steady, appears difficult without an influx of young blood. New Hampshire is running out of teenagers. The University’s biggest problems are declining enrolments, rising tuition, and dwindling youth population. Student debt has soared, the result of loans to cover the difference. Devastating also is the fact that New Hampshire higher education has experienced years of cuts and flat funding, and the overall funding remains lowest per capita in the country, roughly equal to pre-Recession levels.
PSU’s Integrated Clusters learning model
It was at this point in 2015 that Donald L. Birx became the 15th president of Plymouth State University. His vision was to restructure the university to become more innovative and entrepreneurial around Integrated Cross-Disciplinary Clusters:
Birx, D. (2016, August). Welcome and the Three E’s: Empowerment, Encouragement, and Excitement. University Day Speech.
‘We truly are creating a 21st Century University built around the key principles of exploration and discovery and innovation and entrepreneurship.’
With a background in complex systems and artificial intelligence, Birx had had experience with clusters at the University of Houston, where he served as vice president for research. ‘Clusters allow a regional comprehensive university to be first class nationally in education and research in the interdisciplinary areas in which the university and community have unique strengths’, Birx wrote.
By 2016, the University launched an audacious experiment—one where no other college or university has dared to go—to implement university-wide Learning Model based around innovation and entrepreneurship.
Biting first the bitter pill, the process saw redundancies, buyouts, and a ten-per cent cut in employees. A University Review and Strategic Allocation process (URSA) was followed by a University Re-invention Initiative. Bearing in mind that smaller programs can play a key role in growing clusters, the process nonetheless deleted twenty undergraduate programs. Together with graduate program deletions, this represented a twenty-three per cent reduction in credit-bearing programmes.
Especially daring was what happened next.
Plymouth State University announced organisational changes that abolished all academic departments, schools, colleges, deans and chairs in favour of an academic cluster model composed of seven interdisciplinary Integrated Clusters. Clusters are defined as a trans-departmental units of faculty, staff and students ‘who come together with the intention to engage in collaborative, interdisciplinary work that transcends or takes advantage of individual disciplines’. Plymouth State University is the only higher education institution in the United States that is ‘clusterising’ its curriculum.
Academic disciplines at PSU are no longer organisationally locked behind silos with minimal interaction across disciplines. Membership in any given cluster may change from semester to semester as faculty follow their interests. Faculty may choose to actively participate in multiple clusters. Clusters focus on working together and with community partners to engage students and faculty in addressing solutions for the community, region, state, and beyond. PSU’s Integrated Clusters include:
- Arts & Technologies
- Education, Democracy & Social Change
- Exploration & Discovery
- Health & Human Enrichment
- Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E)
- Justice & Security
- Tourism, Environment & Sustainable Development.
What does that mean in terms of curriculum?
Students can still choose a traditional major, such as biology, but rather than being in a ‘biology department’, that major now falls within the ‘Exploration and Discovery’ cluster, which contains the former departments of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Biology, Information Technology, Interdisciplinary Studies, Mathematics, Meteorology, and Psychology.
An example of synergies that this new learning model has created is in the Arts & Technology cluster. The Plymouth region is a very strong arts and theatre area. Equally, technology is a powerful player since the technology hub Boston is within driving distance. The novel idea in this cluster was that the Arts can complement Technology. Both are using new product design, manufacturing, entertainment, modelling and training. Together, arts and technology comprise the ‘STEAM disciplines’—science, technology, engineering, math—and “A” for “arts”. Advocates point to research showing how the STEAM approach enriches engineering education. For example, aeronautic engineers improve their practice by learning how to play a musical instrument.
In the PSU Integrated Clusters Learning Model, clusters do overlap, but the ‘Innovation & Entrepreneurship’ (I&E) cluster overlaps all clusters (see Figure), meaning all students might be exposed to it. The underlying motivation of the new learning model is that all students—be they in art or zoology—can graduate with the ability to understand how to develop and implement entrepreneurial and innovative ideas, no matter what their discipline.
To launch PSU’s new learning model, faculty developed four tools to accelerate the adoption of this new learning model. Together, these tools provide a pathway for students from launch through implementation of a cluster-based educational enterprise. The tools are:
- First-Year Seminar experience introduces students to cluster learning focussed on a challenge question (‘wicked problem’), carries out a team-based interdisciplinary project, explores learning and research methodologies, and relates how the cluster model works.
- Open Labs combine seemingly divergent strands of study by placing students in team project learning with external community and business leaders to create innovations and new discoveries.
- Themed’ General Education. Previously students simply picked from a list. Now these courses span clusters and connect at the end through a Seinor Capstone project.
- In their third or fourth year, students take an Integrated Capstone Experience that bookends the First-Year Seminar and integrates the depth and breadth of learning over the last four years.
So far, so good, one would say. A strong start of this collective initiative of all faculty and staff at the University. But recalling PSU’s poet laureate Robert Frost would say:
‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.’
What we know about entrepreneurship education
In this case study, PSU’s ‘predicament’ is an opportunity to become a more enterprising institution. Plymouth State University aims to build an ‘Entrepreneurial University’, a concept driven primarily by Burton R. Clark, the great sociologist of higher education, and Henry Etzkowitz, a leading scholar in innovation studies. An entrepreneurial university (with multiple missions for teaching, research, and economic and social development) can push a university like PSU in the continued progress of American ingenuity.
Entrepreneurial universities have acquired the status of a key concept for smart regions. This is due to their role in harnessing education, research, and engagement for beneficial. An entrepreneurial university is one that contributes and provides leadership in creating entrepreneurial thinking, actions, institutions and capital of its students, staff, and faculty.
What do we know about entrepreneurship education? Best practice now comes from global contemporary and historic examples. Universities can and do build entrepreneurial ecosystems based on an ‘enterprising mindset’ learning model.
The spread of entrepreneurship education as a learning model.
Teaching entrepreneurship is not new—it was well underway by the early 1980s. From the beginning, there was considerable consensus that entrepreneurship was distinguishable from management education, and that studying it can positively influence entrepreneurial attributes. By the end of the millennium, there was a ranking of entrepreneurship schools. Now, entrepreneurship education has spread widely around the world, has diversified its teaching approaches, is proud of a vigorous research literature, and has become an academic discipline. Baptista and Naia’s literature review shows that theoretical contributions about entrepreneurship education have been increasing and improving. 
One of this field’s paradoxes is that entrepreneurship is offered predominantly only in business schools, even though it does not really belong there. If entrepreneurship is siloed (segregated) in the business faculty, then it cannot reach out to the broad array of disciplines, with potentially more enterprising potential.
Nonetheless, entrepreneurship education is now expanding into arts, sciences, design, engineering, and most any subject. Entrepreneurship education is becoming university-wide, drawing on cross-disciplinary programmes with diverse missions, rather than existing simply as a subspecialty in business programmes.
What’s more, there is a correlation between entrepreneurship and education. Exposure to entrepreneurship education leads to higher levels of self-efficacy, which leads to entrepreneurial intent. Entrepreneurs are more likely to have received training and education than the rest of the working-age population.
Entrepreneurship education is effective for business students and STEM students. More than one-third of business majors want to start a business, but one-sixth of non-business students also want to strike out on their own.  Business students generally have the least enterprising ideas compared to students in arts, science, and elsewhere.
Behaviourally, it also makes sense. Studies show a positive effect of entrepreneurship education on attitudes and perceived behavioural control. It significantly affects student attitudes towards entrepreneurial activity. Lackeus suggests that it triggers emotional events in students, which in turn develop entrepreneurial competencies. For example, requiring a student to create a venture or create value for someone leads to frequent open lab interaction, a sense of relevancy and meaning (as well as numerous incidents of frustration, anger and despair). These activities lead to the development of competencies such as tolerance of ambiguity, increased persistence, increased self-efficacy, and entrepreneurial passion.
People typically ask two questions of entrepreneurship educators:
- Does an entrepreneur really need teaching? The answer is actually mixed. True, there are many entrepreneurs (maybe as high as 10–15 per cent in the USA) who drop out of school. They lack the patience to learn (nor did their teachers have patience with them). Other research shows that entrepreneurs have is a higher rate of ADHD. They simply found it difficult to focus and complete their schoolwork. Even illit-rate and dyslexic entrepreneurs succeed (by learning visually and relying on others). Then there are teenage non-conformists. Modest rule-breaking never hurt an entrepreneur! Bottom line is that education and entrepreneurship are highly correlated—the more education you have, the more likely you will in-tend to exploit opportunities 
- Yes, but can you learn to be an entrepreneur? Again, yes and no. You most definitely can learn it if someone helps you discover that spark and passion within yourself. What good teachers do is create a world where students can experiment/experience being an entrepreneur and cultivating a creative, confident habit of mind using the scientific method to identify and exploit opportunities. In those precious minutes together with learners, entrepreneurship educators supply just-in-time content that is both enabling and experiential, where you are challenged by the real problems, have access to tools and techniques to work through those problems, and, ultimately, learn the theory, process and practice of being innovative and enterprising.
Entrepreneurship education is actually a philosophy of life. Nobel Prize winner in Economics Amartya Sen once said: ‘The highest expression of freedom is the ability to choose what kind of life one wants to lead. Enterprising activity is the objective and the primary means of enhancing human freedom. The usefulness of ‘value creation’ lies in the things that it allows us to do—the substantive freedoms it helps us to achieve.
The PSU’s Entrepreneurship Ecosystem
To build an entrepreneurial university, certain ecosystem components should be in place. To use academic language, institutions must build and improve their University-Based Entrepreneurial Ecosystem(U-BEE), those interdependent actors and factors around a university that facilitate productive entrepreneurship. These components increase the ‘creative capital’ in the regional economy, and mobilise and transfer the enterprising mind-set to students and faculty throughout the University. An especially important component is women entrepreneurs’ and disadvantaged entrepreneurs’ participation, as those vary significantly from those of men.
Here are these validated components mapped onto PSU’s U-BEE by January 2019:
- Alignment of institutional objectives
- Ongoing curriculum innovation
- Innovation & Entrepreneurship Cluster
- Business incubator
- Courses in entrepreneurship
- Entrepreneurship student club
- Networking events for entrepreneurs
- Maker spaces where entrepreneurs can interact
- Participation of the community and the business community
- Strategic vision statement on the entrepreneurial university
- Centre for Enterprise Education / Teaching Institute
- Entrepreneurship major, minor or certificate
- Gender imbalance plan
- Entrepreneurship courses for non-business majors
- Entrepreneurship floor in dorm
- Entrepreneurship research activities
- Student venture investment fund
- Links to angel and venture funds
- Business plan competitions
- Participation of state and federal programmes
Part 3. Enterprising Mind-Set and Design Habit of Mind
Part 4. Why does TIDE raise all boats at PSU? (coming soon)
Part 5. How PSU is becoming an Entrepreneurial University (coming soon)
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 In the cross-university context, any student can be enterprising and launch ventures. It of course includes business ventures but also social, environmental, and scientific ventures. But students can also launch (ad)ventures, such as an Outdoor Education student who organizes a twenty-person climb up Mt Kilimanjaro. That trip may not be an incorporated business but still will required business skills.
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 The first comprehensive textbook was our predecessor Kuratko, Donald F., and Richard M. Hodgetts. Entrepreneurship: A Contemporary Approach. Dryden Press Series in Management. Chicago: Dryden Press, 1989. See also: Greenwood, K., & And Others. (1984). Resources for Entrepreneurship Education. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED269577; Miller, M. D., Wimberley, D., Oklahoma State University, Occupational and Adult Education, United States, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, . . . Minority Business Development Agency (Eds.). (1984). Promoting entrepreneurship education in vocational education a final report. Stillwater, OK: Oklahoma State University, College of Education, Occupational and Adult Education. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED269576; National Center for Research in Vocational Education (U.S.), United States, & Office of Vocational and Adult Education (Eds.). (1984). National Entrepreneurship Education Forum. In National Entrepreneurship Education Forum proceedings of a conference, September 5–6, 1984. Columbus, Ohio: National Center for Research in Vocational Education. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED262153; Ross, N., National Center for Research in Vocational Education (U.S.), United States, & Office of Vocational and Adult Education (Eds.). (1984). A National entrepreneurship education agenda for action. Columbus, Ohio: National Center for Research in Vocational Education, Ohio State University. http://www.voced.edu.au/content/ngv:42680; Worthington, R. M. (1984). Critical Issues Surrounding Entrepreneurship Education—Present, Past, Future—A Federal Perspective. Office of Vocational and Adult Education. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED251612; McMullan, W. E., & Long, W. A. (1987). Entrepreneurship education in the nineties. Journal of Business Venturing, 2(3), 261–275. https://doi.org/10.1016/0883–9026(87)90013–9
 Gorman, G., Hanlon, D., & King, W. (1997). Some Research Perspectives on Entrepreneurship Education, Enterprise Education and Education for Small Business Management: A Ten-Year Literature Review. International Small Business Journal, 15(3), 56–77. https://doi.org/10.1177/0266242697153004; Henry, C., Hill, F., & Leitch, C. (1996). Entrepreneurship Education and Training. Aldershot, Hants, England ; Burlington, Vt: Ashgate Pub Ltd.; Hills, G. E. (1988). Variations in University entrepreneurship education: An empirical study of an evolving field. Journal of Business Venturing, 3(2), 109–122. https://doi.org/10.1016/0883–9026(88)90021–3; Kent, C. A. (1990). Entrepreneurship education : current developments, future directions. New York: Quorum Books.; Plaschka, G. R., & Welsch, H. P. (1990). Emerging structures in entrepreneurship education: curricular designs and strategies. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 14(3), 55–71. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/104225879001400308; Solomon, G. T., & Lloyd W. Fernald, J. (1991). Trends in Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship Education in the United States. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 15(3), 25–40. https://doi.org/10.1177/104225879101500303
 Vesper, K. H., & Gartner, W. B. (1997). Measuring progress in entrepreneurship education. Journal of Business Venturing, 12(5), 403–421. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0883–9026(97)00009–8
 Baptista, R., & Naia, A. (2015). Entrepreneurship Education: A Selective Examination of the Literature. Foundations and Trends® in Entrepreneurship, 11(5), 337–426. https://doi.org/10.1561/0300000047; Baptista, R., & Naia, A. (2015). Entrepreneurship Education: A Selective Examination of the Literature. Foundations and Trends in Entrepreneurship, 11(5), 337–426. https://doi.org/10.1561/0300000047; Gartner, W. B., & Vesper, K. H. (1994). Experiments in entrepreneurship education: successes and failures. Journal of Business Venturing, 9(3), 179–187. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256620228_Experiments_in_entrepreneurship_education_Successes_and_failures; Katz, J. A. (2003). The chronology and intellectual trajectory of American entrepreneurship education: 1876–1999. Journal of Business Venturing, 18(2), 283–300. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0883–9026(02)00098–8; Vesper, K. H., & Gartner, W. B. (1997). Measuring progress in entrepreneurship education. Journal of Business Venturing, 12(5), 403–421. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0883–9026(97)00009–8; Henry, C., Hill, F., & Leitch, C. (2003). Entrepreneurship Education and Training: The Issue of Effectiveness. Routledge; Naia, A., Baptista, R., Januário, C., & Trigo, V. (2015). Entrepreneurship Education Literature in the 2000s. Journal of Entrepreneurship Education, 18(1), 111–135; Solomon, G. (2014). The National Survey of Entrepreneurship Education. Retrieved February 11, 2018, from http://www.nationalsurvey.org/files/2014KauffmanReport_Clean.pdf; Finkle, T. A. (2010). Entrepreneurship education trends. Research in Business and Economics Journal, 1, 35. http://www.aabri.com/manuscripts/08034.pdf
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