In late May, 3,000 Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) students gathered together for the finale of Entrepreneurship 101 – perhaps the largest course on entrepreneurship ever taught around the world. In a gigantic hall, students participated in a competition-based business plan development simulation – an interactive test which engaged them in financial, marketing, strategic and other decisions. They were all real entrepreneurs for the day – competing against their classmates to determine the best performing company. They also attended a massive “carnival,” in which students competed to sell the most goods. Some competed in a Pitch Olympics which tasked students to impress a distinguished panel of judges with their novel start-up ideas. Everywhere you turned were highly-engaged groups of students excitedly peddling everything from high-end lemonade to diabetes pharmaceuticals to newfangled strawberry preserves. In front of UKM Vice Chancellor Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan, Stevens Provost George Korfiatis and other dignitaries, winners proudly accepted monetary prizes equivalent to more than $1,500.
Stevens – long recognized as a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship – developed the hugely-successful Entrepreneurship 101 course content and curriculum after being hand-selected by UKM in 2009 from among numerous top-notch competitors to build its overall capacity in the entrepreneurship field. The course – which consisted of both online and face-to-face instruction – built on a series of workshops Stevens faculty members have delivered in Malaysia over the past three years in the process of developing an entrepreneurship minor at UKM and instructing UKM professors in the latest teaching techniques, such as distance learning and active learning.
In Malaysia and other emerging markets, entrepreneurship is increasingly being recognized as the wave of the future. In fact, in a proactive measure, the government of Malaysia recently mandated that all freshman university students across the country must take an entrepreneurship course in their first year of study.
“China has obliterated the low-end market and Malaysia can no longer wait for business to come to them,” said Dr. Gary Lynn, associate professor of technology management and one of the Stevens faculty members responsible for the Stevens-UKM partnership. “Being an outsourced manufacturing supplier is no longer a viable option. The natural conclusion is to turn to entrepreneurship.”
Stevens was the perfect choice to infuse entrepreneurship in academia in Malaysia, given its niche in technical entrepreneurship.
“To become competitive in the world economy – to truly elevate an entire country – you have to create something new. You do that with technology,” said Dr. Peter Koen, associate professor of technology management and an Entrepreneurship 101 co-teacher.
Entrepreneurship 101 teaches students how to think like entrepreneurs – understanding the value of time, being profit-motivated, and appreciating the importance of persistence, ethics and more, and developing basic skills in sales, marketing and finance. Lynn and Koen believe instilling the entrepreneurial mindset in the future workforce is imperative for Malaysia to establish itself as a global economic competitor and improve the standard of living.
“This isn’t just about creating jobs; it’s about creating good jobs. Entrepreneurship is a way to create engineering and science jobs and other lucrative careers that can move a country forward,” said Lynn.
Under Stevens’ leadership, Entrepreneurship 101 will continue at UKM in May 2013, along with a Stevens-developed four-course minor including a two-course junior sequence in advanced entrepreneurship and a two-course senior experience called “The Senior Startup” where students actually create their own companies and sell their actual products and services. In January 2013, Entrepreneurship 101 will also be piloted on the Stevens campus to approximately 60 students.
The curriculum has been well-received and Lynn and Koen recently gave a train-the-trainer workshop to 22 additional Malaysian universities. In October, Lynn will also present the Stevens brand of technical entrepreneurship to the King of Malaysia in a keynote address.
“Our partnership with UKM – especially this spectacular and massive final project – further establishes Stevens as the leader in technical entrepreneurship and demonstrates the importance of this strategic competency to economies across the world,” said Provost George Korfiatis.