During our OPEN 2019 conference, we held a special session to launch a new initiative, Mission 2025: Supporting Your Vision for I&E Education. The session was designed to elicit from the community their vision for the future of I&E education, better understand how faculty envision moving that work forward, and understand the support needed to make that vision a reality.
“VentureWell has awarded over $11 million to 450+ faculty at more than 230 different institutions,” said Victoria Matthew, VentureWell senior program officer and Mission 2025 facilitator. “Over that time, I&E education ecosystems have flourished and advanced such that competitions, entrepreneurship centers, and makerspaces are now standard on many campuses. While the progress is impressive, many in our community are now asking: where do we go from here?”
What We Heard at Mission 2025
Based on input from participants in the Mission 2025 session, we identified the following topics as important for our community to work on over the next five years.
Research and practice collaboration: Participants identified an opportunity for educational and social science researchers to join forces with STEM I&E faculty to create and pursue shared research goals, synthesize best practices, build greater research and evaluation capacity within the field, and disseminate learnings. This will help us better understand what practices are effective, and foundational to advance the field of I&E education.
Engage and support other disciplines: Attendees expressed great interest in broadening the pool of student inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs by fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration and engaging faculty and students beyond engineering fields—such as the arts and sciences—to maximize the pipeline of those that can work on solving the world’s big challenges.
Equity and inclusion: Participants also saw value in engaging diverse students as a means to foster increased innovation. The group discussed the need to promote equity along multiple dimensions: engaging students with diverse identities and backgrounds, personality styles, and perspectives, and making a concerted effort to engage students currently underrepresented in I&E, for example women and people of color.
Ethics: Attendees defined a broad need to more explicitly embed ethics within entrepreneurship education particularly in the experiences that are foundational in taking steps toward entrepreneurship. This could include elevating personal character and values of entrepreneurs, and encouraging more businesses to be social enterprises or create positive impacts through entrepreneurship.
Supporting under-resourced communities: Participants wanted a greater focus on the education and engagement of faculty and innovators from under-resourced communities—that allow them to better address the needs of people in those communities.
We also asked participants what support they needed, both generally and specifically from VentureWell, in order to move these topic areas forward:
Additional support that goes beyond financial resources, such as community convenings to develop tools, coursework and research agendas, resource development and dissemination, and opportunities to test and iterate new ideas and teaching approaches with colleagues.
Leverage existing VentureWell programs and grants to move topic ideas forward, such as topical foci for Faculty Grants, and integrating ethics and support of under-resourced communities concepts into E-Teams and Lean LaunchPad training.
Next Steps for Mission 2025
We have already begun processing next steps, such as programming and grant support, to address the topics and themes Mission 2025 participants identified. According to Patricia Boynton, VentureWell grants manager, “We have created a new Faculty Grant RFP that supports the development or expansion of courses, programs, and initiatives with a topical focus on environmentally responsible design and invention practices and methodology.”
In line with recommendations from the community, these grants will also provide the cohort with additional support beyond grant funding. This support includes a two-day hands-on workshop to help faculty incorporate sustainable design principles and frameworks into their courses or programs. Grantees will also participate in regularly scheduled virtual meetups to discuss progress to date, plans going forward, and challenges to troubleshoot. The grantees will work with VentureWell to develop a resource that captures learnings, and disseminate their learnings and outcomes with the broader I&E community at OPEN and other I&E-focused conferences.
This summer, we’re also offering a retreat at the VentureWell office in Hadley, MA for up to three OPEN 2019 attendees to design or plan something that will help them achieve their educational goals, and ultimately impact the field of I&E education. “The retreat provides the time and space for faculty to work with new colleagues to further develop an idea that was sparked between them during OPEN,” said Boynton.
Interested applicants must submit a proposal by April 29. The chosen collaborators will receive a stipend to be used for travel to the VentureWell offices, lodging, and meals. Visit this page to start the short application process.
“In addition to these Spring opportunities, we are excited to kick off our internal planning of Fall activities for our community around ethics, diversity and inclusion, and research,” said Matthew. “We will continue to meet regularly to determine how learnings from Mission 2025 can be further woven into our work.”
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