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School adopts entrepreneurial mindset with ASM speakers, new courses and electives

By Samantha ’20, Macy ’22 and Lianna ’22

Staff Illustrator Eleanor ’21

Program

Marlborough has expanded its entrepreneurial curriculum since the first class was offered back in 2016, with a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, four entrepreneurial course offerings and three entrepreneur assembly speakers. Courses like Entrepreneurship 101, Design for Social Impact, Middle School Entrepreneurship and Honors Capstone in Entrepreneurship teach students to adopt the entrepreneurial mindset.

One major factor contributing to this growth is the prevalence of entrepreneurship in higher educational institutions, according to Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Regina Rosi Mitchell. 

“You are seeing more and more traditional liberal art schools offering some sort of business program or entrepreneurship program,” Rosi Mitchell said. “You’re seeing more and more innovation centers cropping up in the K-12 space and in the higher-end space. We want to make sure that our students are as prepared as they can possibly be, not just for college, but for life beyond that.”

According to a study conducted by Online Schools Center, 41% of middle and high school students plan to start their own businesses and 45% say that they will invent something world changing. The States of Entrepreneurship Education reports that as of 2015, 42 out of 50 states in U.S. have K-12 guidelines or proficiencies in entrepreneurial education.

According to Dean of Student Life Brett Quimby, Marlborough’s focus on entrepreneurship is part of a more general shift toward “design thinking,” a new way of creative problem-solving. Design thinking, which was built to help entrepreneurs and inventors develop products, is now being applied to Marlborough’s curriculum. This new method of thinking refers to the cognitive, practical and strategic ways that design concepts are produced.

“It’s a big trend going on in education right now, where a lot of people are saying there’s something really great in the entrepreneurial way of thinking,” Quimby said. “That isn’t necessarily entrepreneurship because it’s not like we’re starting a company, but it’s the idea of design thinking.”

Head of School Priscilla Sands agrees that entrepreneurial thinking extends beyond the field of business.

“We always think of [entrepreneurship] in terms of starting a business, but I think educators are great entrepreneurs because every day they’re creating something in their classrooms,” Sands said. “I am a proponent of design thinking, asking the questions that could propel us toward a better, more ethical world.”

Sands built an entrepreneurship center at her previous school, Springside School, in Philadelphia. She said that the students wanted a center for real-world problem-solving. The entrepreneurship center started small, focused around a multimedia studio. After hearing about an idea for a similar multimedia studio when she arrived at Marlborough, Sands decided to establish an entrepreneurship center with the CEI.

“We wanted to create more than a center for entrepreneurship,” Sands said. “You have engineering, you have robotics, you have entrepreneurship, and you have video broadcasting. We wanted to create a hub of the school, a heart of the school where everybody could go.”

Sands said she believes that design thinking and the entrepreneurial mindset are important skills for teachers and students to develop, with real-life applications in college and beyond.

“I think being open and inquisitive, and having teachers who are that way, is what we are and what we should continue to be,” Sands said.

Entrepreneurship fits into Marlborough’s goals not just because students obtain the core skills needed to pursue a career path in business, but also because they serve as conduits for teaching students collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.

“In many ways we say that our entrepreneurship classes teach more than business skills alone,” Rosi Mitchell said. “While you certainly will learn skills that will be helpful for starting a business, you also learn leadership skills and build a mindset for creative problem solving, which is important for any career you might decide to pursue.”

Grace ‘20 is a student enrolled in the Honors Capstone in Entrepreneurship. What interested her in the course was its emphasis on real world application.

“For most classes it is just sitting there and you are learning, let’s just say, about Shakespeare, but you are never really going to use it in real life,” Grace said.

Courses

Another reason for the program’s expansion in course offerings has been student interest in the classes and field. In a survey sent out to the Marlborough student body, 89.3% of respondents said they believe it is important the school offers these options. Furthermore, 26.3% of students expressed an interest in pursuing entrepreneurship or business after college. 

“We always offered Intro to Entrepreneurship [Entrepreneurship 101] as well as Middle School Entrepreneurship, but over the years we have had more students saying, ‘This is really fun, I want more,’” Rosi Mitchell said. 

These trends are not just limited to Marlborough. According to a study by Gallup, 77% of students from grades 5-12 want to be their own boss, and 45% of students hope to start their own business. 

Rosi plans to continue expanding entrepreneurial opportunities. One possible future offering includes paring up the Capstone students with business mentors outside of school. 

Entrepreneurship 101 teaches students the basics of creating a business. In this semester-long course, students start out serving as a business consultant to a startup in LA and then create their own business, and make pitches to investors.

“[It teaches you] how to come up with a great idea, how to problem solve, how to see an obstacle as an opportunity to make a difference, and how to actually change the world and make it better,” Rosi said.

Design for Social Impact combines technology, entrepreneurship, and social justice. This is the first time it has been offered at Marlborough. In this course, students create a social venture and pitch at the SPARK Tank competition in April. 

In Middle School Entrepreneurship, 7th and 8th graders have the opportunity to work on a consulting project for a startup. At the end of the course, they pitch their project to the CEO of the company. 

The Honors Capstone in Entrepreneurship guides students through the process of launching their own business. Students learn the Lean Startup Method, make a financial model, business plan, and pitch their business to a panel of investors at the Marlborough SPARC Tank.  

17.5% of respondents to the UV survey said that they have taken an entrepreneurship course in the past. Less than a majority––about 30% of respondents––were interested in taking an entrepreneurship course or were taking one currently. 

“I most definitely do not plan on enrolling in an entrepreneurship course or capstone,” a respondent to the UV survey said. “I am much more interested in other fields where your success is not determined by how many products you sell and how much money you make.” 

Emily ‘20 is currently enrolled in the Honors Capstone in Entrepreneurship.  What attracted her to the course was entrepreneurship’s applicability to the real world.

“I feel that business and entrepreneurship is very relevant nowadays and that starting your own ventures and having the capabilities to do so is a very helpful skill,” Emily said.

Other students like the way the courses are taught. 

“My favorite part about it is how hands-on the experience is because it is not like reading a textbook,” Grace said. “You have to practice pitching or sketching out your ideas.”

89.5% of the survey respondents thought that it was important for Marlborough to have entrepreneurship courses. Many respondents said they believe that these courses are key to inspire more young women to become entrepreneurs. 

“Not enough young women feel confident enough to start a business, so to increase the number of women CEOs, it would be very helpful for Marlborough to offer courses in business,” a respondent from the anonymous survey said. 

Marlborough’s focus on entrepreneurism reflects the interest of the student body. Of the people who responded to the survey, 59.6% have thought about starting a business venture in the past. 26.3% of respondents expressed interest in going into the field of business or entrepreneurship after college. 

“Entrepreneurship is still a very male-dominated field, so while Marlborough has encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and become a leader, or maybe start a business or get into business, or whatever it might be, I feel like there is still a lot of work to be done,” Emily said.

Speakers

Since the beginning of the school year, Marlborough has brought in three ASM speakers who are advocates of entrepreneurship: Cindy Eckert, Debbie Sterling and Jessica Abo. Eckert debuted the series of speakers with her Oct. 21, 2019 presentation on The Pink Ceiling, a women-run business that raises capital to invest in other businesses. 

Another respondent to the UV survey said that she thought the business speakers were caught up in the idea that success equates to money.

“I hate being told that I, too, can be a strong independent woman CEO With Lots of Money,” she said. “To me, being empowered [is] completely separate from having power over others.”

Toy company GoldieBlox founder Debbie Sterling’s ASM seemed to receive a more positive response from the community. 61.4% of respondents to the UV survey said that they most enjoyed Sterling’s visit compared to the other speakers.

“I really liked Debbie Sterling,” an anonymous respondent to the UV survey said, “because of her message of dealing with misogyny in the entrepreneurial industry and how starting a business never goes perfectly.”

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