July 22, 2022

How the Ice House Program Fits into 30 Years of Entrepreneurship Education at a Kansas College

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By: Sarah Williamson


Johnson County Community College in Kansas City, Kansas, is a pioneer in entrepreneurship education. In fact, many of its students today weren’t even born yet when JCCC launched its entrepreneurship program in 1992. 

Adjunct Professor Joe Magnant has been in a prime position to observe the program’s ebbs and flows over the past three decades. For 15 of those years, he’s been riding the current along with the college as one of its go-to educators in the Entrepreneurial Mindset course. 

A Long-Standing Passion Project

Magnant is still as passionate about the content as he was when he first attended Ice House facilitator certification training and met Gary Schoeniger, CEO of The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, and Clifton Taulbert, whose experiences inspired the book Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur.

“There’s nothing new or revolutionary in the Ice House model, but it groups the key elements of a successful future in a way people can understand. I often phrase it as ‘things your mama taught you, but you might have forgotten,’” Magnant said. 

ELI, JCCC, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (a Kansas City-area nonprofit that fosters entrepreneurship) worked closely on rolling out the Ice House model at the secondary level for many years. They collaborated to develop course materials and ensured ELI’s curriculum met colleges’ rigorous criteria for student outcomes. JCCC professors helped develop assignments, reflections, and activities that are still used widely today. 

Magnant credits former JCCC Professor and Chair of Entrepreneurship Donna Duffey with shaping the implementation of the Ice House model on campus and instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in her colleagues in ways that have stood the test of time. For example, in the transition to online learning during the COVID pandemic, JCCC was “very proactive in rethinking how education is delivered via online and blended courses,” Magnant said.  

‘A Critical Success Factor’

For the past several years, Magnant has taught Entrepreneurial Mindset courses exclusively online in an asynchronous format. He has noticed that the students drawn to it tend to be very committed to developing their skills and knowledge in pursuit of opportunities to create value for others. “These are people who have taken responsibility for doing what needs to be done,” he said. 

Many of his students are on the path to receiving associate degrees. Some are also seeking JCCC’s entrepreneurship certificate. It includes four courses that cover the fundamentals of successful self-employment: Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurial Mindset, Operational Analysis, and Business Planning. Because faculty can leverage the content so well into other programs, their majors might be as diverse as culinary, horticulture, fashion design, or HVAC.

Magnant emphasizes to his students that the eight life lessons—things like personal choice, community, persistence, and knowledge—are necessary whether they go on to start their own businesses or not. “They’re a critical success factor in business as well as individual growth,” he said.

With more than 35 years as an adjunct professor under his belt—concurrent with a 30-year career as a software engineer at Hallmark—Magnant feels a strong sense of pride in JCCC’s accomplishments at the vanguard of leveraging the Ice House model into its courses. It navigated the difficult process of change and continued to grow and learn from its own successes and challenges.

Magnant isn’t quite ready to retire from leading Entrepreneurial Mindset courses at JCCC. Not because he loves lecturing online, but because he loves that it allows him to start students on a proven path to achieving their goals and making an impact on the world. “This is why I do what I do,” he said.