The Value of Entrepreneurship

Unique learning approach equips students to become innovative leaders in their fields.

November 14, 2016

At Baylor University, Engineering & Computer Science students are equipped to become innovative leaders in their fields through an emphasis on entrepreneurially minded learning. This focus augments the technical curriculum with active problem-based learning. 

“We’re trying to encourage students to see beyond just crunching numbers and using calculators and computers,” said Dr. Kenneth Van Treuren, associate dean for research and faculty development. “In many cases, what this involves is the creating of ideas, and it comes back to the question of why be an engineer? We want our alumni to create things that add value; we want them to improve society and help other people.”

One of the ways the School of Engineering & Computer Science has invested in the entrepreneurially minded learning approach is through participation in the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN), a collaboration of universities with a mission to reignite innovation in the economy. 

Cindy Fry, computer science senior lecturer, and Dr. Bill Jordan, mechanical engineering department chair, are two of the founding members of Baylor’s partnership with KEEN. As one of only about two dozen universities invited to participate in this highly-selective network, Baylor has embraced KEEN’s entrepreneurial values of curiosity, making connections and creating value. 

Grants awarded to the University by the Kern Family Foundation have helped strengthen ties with the network. The original $5,000 grant Baylor was invited to apply for grew to an additional $50,000 grant, followed by a $75,000 award from KEEN. Currently, the School of Engineering & Computer Science is investing a $700,000 grant to create innovative senior design projects and entrepreneurially minded course modules for engineering courses. Over the past two academic years, ten courses have been modified to include entrepreneurial topics. 

“We’re giving our students a competitive advantage through our partnership within the KEEN Network,” Dr. Jordan said. “We’re better preparing them to be productive engineers. They’re going to be thinking more creatively as a result of what we’re doing.”

Travvis Scott, BSME ’14, has applied these creative thinking skills to his post-graduate pursuits. A mechanical engineering alumnus, he has leveraged his degree and the entrepreneurially minded thought processes to launch a bow-tie business. 

“My success as a tailor and a bow-tie creator is absolutely tied to the entrepreneurially minded learning focus at Baylor,” Scott said. “Engineering, in a broader scope, is simply problem solving and critical thinking. Being equipped to think about things in an entrepreneurial way is what enabled me to go from making bow ties out of old shirts I would have thrown away into a business.”

According to Professor Fry, alumni like Scott benefit from the increased marketability of the skills they gain from the entrepreneurially minded focus at Baylor. 

“All students from accredited universities will have a similar curriculum experience, so we need to differentiate our students’ experience in a meaningful way,” Fry said. “Our Christian faith is what drives entrepreneurially minded learning at Baylor. Students who select Baylor want to do something technically, but they also want to do something for the benefit of mankind. We encourage students to think beyond technical feasibility, exploring whether their decisions are morally and ethically right and how they will benefit people and add value.”