Teaching Entrepreneurship to Engineers:

A Logico-Deductive Review of Leading Curricula


Thomas N. Duening, PhD
Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, Arizona State University


Can entrepreneurship be taught?  Anyone who has spent even the slightest time in the classroom ostensibly to teach entrepreneurship has probably encountered this question. It stems from an abiding belief that successful entrepreneurs are, somehow, just “different”.  This belief in a “difference” factor or set of factors is rarely articulated with any level of detail.  Sometimes it is stated that entrepreneurs have more energy than non-entrepreneurs.  Sometimes it is stated that they are greater risk takers, sales people, leaders, or money raisers.  Whatever the “difference” factor(s) is or are, it is the opinion of many critics of entrepreneurship education that the topic can be taught, but you can’t make someone an entrepreneur who does not have this “different” factor as a function of god’s will or fortunate genetics.  As it is sometimes pithily articulated, one is either born an entrepreneur or not.

Legions of entrepreneurship educators around the country have heard this question and have grown weary of responding.  In our opinion, the question furtively is one of those trick questions that sounds profound but has no possible satisfactory answer.  It’s similar to a question like “Are you still beating your spouse”?  The very attempt to answer the question provides it with undeserved legitimacy.  The question about teaching entrepreneurship should not be legitimized with an answer.  Entrepreneurship resides in everyone; the same way the ability to play golf resides within everyone.  The goal of the golf instructor is not to make you play like Tiger Woods, it is to help you become the best golfer you can be. Likewise, the goal of entrepreneurship education is not to teach “entrepreneurship”, it is to help students become the best entrepreneurs they can become.


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