Entrepreneurial Education Goes Beyond Classroom
By Alyssa Schoeneman, AEL Intern
Recreation, Sport and Tourism (RST) Associate Professor and AEL Faculty Fellow Bruce Wicks, Ph.D. wants more entrepreneurial curriculum and he wants it now.
Wicks has been with the AEL for five years, a stint that has made a major impact on his academic opinions.
“I think students need to be challenged repeatedly to think in entrepreneurial terms,” he said. “To me, the definition of an entrepreneur is someone who moves toward their goals by reallocating resources from low-productivity activities to high-productivity activities. Whether it is while they are doing their homework or getting a degree or getting a job, I think all of those entrepreneurial traits need to be conveyed to the students from the moment they get here.”
Too frequently, Wicks said, university-based learning occurs in the form of memorization, and that a student being able to “spit back what is in the textbook” does not indicate his or her future professional success. It is much harder to instill a spirit of entrepreneurship in a student, he continued to say, but the payoff is well worth the investment.
“These creative, innovative types of learning experiences will be much more beneficial to students than what they learn in a textbook,” Wicks said. “In the Social Sciences we don’t have labs – we have to get out in the field and do it. It is expensive but I don’t think we can ignore the fact that it needs to be done to provide a well-rounded education for our students.”
In his revised course for the AEL, Entrepreneurship & Recreational Enterprises, Wicks focuses on community-based learning in the East St. Louis area. Inspired by the Academy’s emphasis on social entrepreneurship and by his own background in the city, Wicks led his students in group design projects that aimed to generate revenue for the East St. Louis Park District.
The goal for the course revision was to provide support for a more intensive, hands-on learning experience; Wicks believes that he and his teaching assistant were able to do just that.
“The TA and I each worked with two groups; the students got a lot more one-on-one attention than they would have otherwise,” he said. “I know through student and client feedback that these projects did reach their goals…and from the instructor’s perspective I believe they did as well.”
And the young entrepreneurs agree; when the course was finished, many of Wicks’ students told him that the hands-on experience was much more meaningful than just reading a book or taking an exam.
“For me, the actual help that we provide to the underprivileged community is rewarding as well,” Wicks said. “We are combining the student growth and awareness and the social side for helping a desperately poor community.”
Wicks credits the Academy’s contribution to the course as being what took it to the next level.
“The AEL made it possible for my students to make these projects with real people in mind,” he said.
In one project for the Park District in East St. Louis, Wicks’ students focused on making activity kits available for rent to people who were having reunions in the park.
“The students took Academy money and bought the supplies, they did research for costs, replacement value, etc.,” he said. “That project is now successfully generating money for the St. Louis Park District.”
But the community of East St. Louis was not the only participant to see growth; the students at Illinois took some important skills away from the exchange.
“I loved seeing the students warm up and respond to projects – what was more important than the grade was the people they were working for,” Wicks said. “Students aren’t pushed that way a lot in academia.”
But the norm we’re not; with Wicks around, students at Illinois should brace themselves.
Entrepreneurial course taught by Professor Wicks
RST 218, Entrepreneurship and Recreational Enterprises
This course will add a new section to Recreation Sport and Tourism 218, Entrepreneurship and Recreation Enterprises, that expands the focus of the class to address social entrepreneurship. The goal is to provide an intensive community-based learning experience in East St. Louis that will use a business planning model to explore and hopefully execute a resource generating enterprise for a local not-for-profit organization.
Visit Course Catalog website for course availability
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About Professor Wicks
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