Dec. 16, 2008

Alumni survey concludes that entrepreneurship classes shape attitudes

Jamie Kalousdian
Graduate student Romi Kher, left, and Deborah Streeter, the Bruce F. Failing Sr. Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Department of Applied Economics and Management. They helped develop a survey of entrepreneurial alumni to measure the impact of entrepreneurship classes on alumni careers and opinions about entrepreneurship.

Does taking even one class in entrepreneurship have an impact on one's future career?

A summer 2008 survey of 15,000 Cornell alumni from the Cornell Entrepreneur Network, which garnered 1,520 responses, found that taking even one entrepreneurship class made a graduate's attitude toward entrepreneurship much more positive. What was most surprising was the strength of the impact, the researchers said, especially for those who took four or more classes.

Deborah Streeter, the Bruce F. Failing Sr. Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Department of Applied Economics and Management (AEM), graduate student Romi Kher and David Just, an AEM associate professor and AEM's director of graduate studies, developed a survey for alumni to measure the impact of entrepreneurship classes on alumni's careers and opinions about entrepreneurship.

"Not everyone had started a business, but many said that the entrepreneurship classes they took helped them think more entrepreneurially, even in a corporate environment," Kher said.

Results show that alumni from across Cornell's schools and colleges perceive clear benefits from taking entrepreneurship classes, and that graduates who wanted to become entrepreneurs most often followed through within five years of graduation. "After five years, the probability of creating an entrepreneurial venture was less than 10 percent," Kher said.

This alumni survey is one of the first of its kind, Just said. Alumni databases aren't usually readily available to researchers.

Kher said the group plans to publish its results in an academic journal and is willing to share the survey instrument with other universities to expand this type of research.

"There's obviously this passion for the topic out there, if our results are any indication," Kher said. "People want to share their insights."

Kathy Hovis is a writer and editor for Entrepreneurship@Cornell. This article is adapted from eship magazine.