The Entrepreneurial Mindset: a University/Community Collaboration

For the last two weeks, AIEmail has focused on a broadened view of entrepreneurship. The word typically refers to starting a business, but in its broader sense, it refers to the qualities we associate with the kinds of people who do so. These qualities include not playing it safe, taking personal accountability for success, and being a creative problem-solver. Two weeks ago, AIEmail looked at how potential employers value these traits. Last week, we looked at the Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) initiative, a college program that acts as a springboard to help students develop those traits. And this week, in an example of how positive energy can be contagious, we'll look at how IE is partnering with community groups to give high school students an opportunity to develop these same qualities.

In January 2011, IE launched a partnership with Austin's Media Communications Council (MCC) to provide intensive mentoring and college readiness opportunities for high-school students in the Austin area (

The program, known as E4 Youth (Engagement, Education, Employment, and Entrepreneurship) was built to empower students interested in digital media to produce their own portfolios. These students develop skills by making a product that can help construct a pathway to college.

In the summer of 2011, and again in 2012, these students have worked with undergraduate and graduate students, as well as media professionals.

Carl Settles, founder of MCC, notes that "leveraging digital media skills is a way to engage students," and that doing so naturally builds interest in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Additionally, Settles points out, these opportunities help the students build a real portfolio. Further, says Settles, these skills can be a pathway to a number of career options, including not just the STEM areas, but also business and the arts.

"The ability to communicate about one's interests and accomplishments is often the difference in success," he states. "By helping students find their passion, we are able to bring their educational experiences in context with their aspirations. Therefore, students become more self-directed and over time we create a culture of achievement."

This kind of community-based project fits well with IE's values of approaching education in a way that starts with the student, rather than a top-down approach. Do you know of programs taking a similar approach? If so, let us know about it! Meanwhile, as you make your way toward your college and career dreams, you might consider looking for opportunities to develop and demonstrate the entrepreneurial qualities we've been discussing.