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McPherson College’s ‘Horizon Faculty Fellow’ Program Encourages Entrepreneurial Mindset Across Curriculum

Natural science, automotive restoration, education, and athletics are probably not the first subject to come to mind at the word “Entrepreneurship.”

But the “Horizon Faculty Fellowship” program at McPherson College continues to prove that characteristics of great entrepreneurs – creativity, innovation, perseverance – are not limited to a single major or career.

That’s because the four professors receiving this year’s fellowship come from fields precisely as diverse as natural science, automotive restoration, education, and athletics.

Michael Dudley, assistant professor of technology, was recently named one of the 2016-2017 fellows, and said he’s had the opportunity to see a spark in students when they “get” what entrepreneurship can do for their education and career.

“New ideas can be invigorating,” he said. “When that ‘light bulb’ in my head goes off, it creates a mixture of excitement and passion to move on to the next step.

This is what I love about teaching. When I see the flicker of light in a student’s eyes indicating that they really grasp what I have been explaining, it fuels my passion to keep teaching.”

The fellowship program is one part of McPherson College’s entrepreneurship initiative, which started in 2010 to incorporate entrepreneurship across the campus. Horizon Faculty Fellows receive resources to incorporate entrepreneurial concepts into an existing class or to start a new entrepreneurial class. Part of this support is regular training sessions, which include current and past fellows. These sessions include discussions around literature and case study readings as well as reports on their own work integrating entrepreneurship into a class. They also are mentored by other MC professors who have been through the program.

Dudley will be adjusting his existing “Advanced Trim” class to add more real-world visits and experiences. He plans to encourage his students to explore the ways that the skills they gain with fabrics could apply outside of owning an automotive trim shop. For example, they could work as a historical researcher for restorers, or they could take their skills and make other items – such as handcrafted purses.

Jodi Ehling, assistant professor of physical education, is another of this year’s fellows. Learning about how to teach entrepreneurship at MC is a privilege and responsibility, she said.

“To become the best educator that I can be, I have to be willing to learn about aspects that are important to our college’s uniqueness,” she said. “If we, as a college, are going to ask our students to explore the entrepreneurial mindset, then I feel it is important for me to prepare myself with the background knowledge.”

Ehling is currently planning to incorporate entrepreneurship into a new Personal Training course that is going to be offered at McPherson College. It may combine well with other areas of study at MC, she said. For example, for someone studying child development, it could help them come up with ways to keep kids physically active.

Dr. Jonathan Frye, professor of natural science, is planning to incorporate more entrepreneurship into a course that has been at MC since 2007 – “Science in Society.” It focuses on fundamentals of natural science, how science leads to the development of technology, and the ethics surrounding these fields.

He will be adding a new major assignment to the course, where teams will work independently to identify a social problem, recognize how science and technology relate to the problem, and propose an entrepreneurial solution.

“The entrepreneurship initiative at McPherson College has been most successful when it has challenged students and faculty to propose and develop sustainable ventures,” Dr. Frye said. “This forces us to realize the scope of the work and the investment of time and energy required.”

Vicki Schmidt, assistant professor of education, will be working across departmental lines as a part of her fellowship, as she makes her “Elementary Science Methods” class more collaborative and applicable to real-life classrooms. Schmidt is working with Dr. Dustin Wilgers, assistant professor of biology, to have students in her class work with those in his “Stewardship Seminar” class.

The plan is that students in both classes will work together to develop hands-on lessons for elementary age students to learn more about the environment. The students will ultimately present the lessons in area elementary schools and assess their effectiveness. The classes will make the resulting full unit on environmental science available for area teachers to check out for use in elementary school classrooms.

Schmidt said that she’s been impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of the McPherson College faculty and wants to help continue to feed the flame.

“This entrepreneurship among faculty and the spirit with which it influences their work and ultimately the work of their students can be compared to smoldering fire,” she said. “Left alone, it would most likely extinguish itself. But with even a small breath of oxygen, it builds and grows larger.”