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Entrepreneurship Explorations: Insights from NACCE 2019

It’s a powerful feeling to sit amongst 500 of your like-minded peers, those dedicated to uplifting and fostering entrepreneurship education in communities across the United States, as a NACCE conference attendee. To be surrounded by individuals whose sole focus is the student experience, to engage in conversations that inspire and invoke hope in the future of our country’s education landscape, is an unparalleled feeling. This year’s NACCE Annual Conference theme, Entrepreneurship Explorations, was representative of a larger purpose: we are on the cusp of a significant education revolution.

"When somebody says jump as high as you can - jump higher." Charles Knippen

During my time in Newport Beach, I felt a common thread occurring in keynotes and conversations alike. A spirit of collaboration permeated the air – the NACCE network recognizes that together, we are stronger. Below, I’ve outlined some of the key themes I took note of, as should anybody with interest in this space.


Amber & Toi sit down with Ted Dintersmith, author of What Schools Could Be, for an episode of EntreEd Talk.

Mindset matters.

Overwhelmingly, a major theme of this year’s conference was a call to prioritize the development and growth of entrepreneurial mindsets, both within our students and organizationally. In an ever-changing world, the intangible skills that are associated with entrepreneurial mindset – problem solving, creativity, collaboration, grit, resilience, opportunity recognition – are becoming more competitive than traditional education skills. This is particularly important as we look at traditional community college programs and K-12 curricula – how can we integrate these mindsets into areas like history, mathematics, welding, and more? Are we testing and teaching what is important, or are we teaching what is easy to test?


Design for delight.

Intuit Education’s session on their Design 4 Delight framework was just one of many sessions focused on design thinking. This new approach to creative problem solving is on the forefront of innovation, making sure that organizations remain customer-focused and agile as they tackle compelling problems. With a strong emphasis on empathy, it’s important to frame all our decisions, organizationally, around the experiences of the student. Focus on quick, experimental approaches to tackle obstacles and rapidly test and pivot your approaches.


Amber and colleague, Beth Kerly, attend Intuit Education's Design4Delight breakout session.

The future is fuzzy.

A glaring theme that impacted every session was the future of work. As mentioned in the breakout session description for my own workshop, 85% of the jobs of the future do not currently exist. Quickly, traditional industry will be disrupted by technology. Ted Dintersmith, in our podcast interview, explored some of the implications of this evolution – in the next decade, any job that has a sense of routine or requires labor will be quickly and more efficiently replaced by machines. This has significant implications on the future of education and how we educate our students. An emphasis on regional collaboration, hands-on learning via makerspaces, project-based approaches, and disrupting traditional models of education was uplifted. The future may still be fuzzy, but I’m positive community colleges will be on the forefront of creating the change needed to adapt to this new world.

“Your comfort zone is nothing but a slow death.” Gordon Hester

NACCE’s Entrepreneurship Education challenged faculty and leadership to think big, challenge assumptions, collaborate for collective action, and tackle the future of work head on. The impact of this group of changemakers will have lasting and life-changing impact on thousands of students and communities. I am honored to be a part of their movement.

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