Embedding Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Every Level
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Size: 63,000 students
Academic centers: 10
Students who engage with entrepreneurship each year: 500-1,000
When Imran Siddiqui arrived at Broward College in November 2019, he took the lead on embedding entrepreneurship and innovation at every level using a newly developed framework. As luck would have it, while Siddiqui analyzed the college’s assets and started to choose strategies for implementing the framework, Gary Schoeniger of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative happened to be speaking on campus about the Ice House programs. A light bulb lit up for Siddiqui.
Broward College’s first in-depth foray into entrepreneurship in 2016 centered on a very rigorous business accelerator, accompanied by a venture fund. However, by 2018 the projects had stalled, and Senior Vice President Dr. Mildred Coyne set out to lead a team of cross-curricular professors to brainstorm a new framework. This was called the Broward College Entrepreneurship Experience (BCEx). Its goal was to effectuate a culture shift that spread the innovation-learning process across the entire college. BCEx decided to focus on those from historically underrepresented groups.
Siddiqui’s challenge was implementing the framework in a way that resonated with the college’s diverse mix of traditional and non-traditional students, faculty, and staff within the budget constraints of a community college.
After attending training to become an Ice House facilitator, Siddiqui felt even more confident that the model could help accomplish many of the goals laid out in the new BCEx framework. People of all ages and backgrounds found it relatable. Its narrative matched many students’ lived experiences. It had compelling content. Its efficient packaging made it easy to add to lesson plans.
Aside from training a cohort of faculty and staff each semester, Siddiqui also incorporated Ice House content as part of the BCEx Ideation phase in Broward’s four-part accelerator program. The eight life lessons foster students’ self-development in the accelerator program and help them be more reflective before diving into their business idea.
The BCEx team also incorporated the Ice House Curriculum into non-credit extra-curricular activities. These include book clubs where cohorts of students, faculty, and staff engage around the life lessons.
Eventually, BCEx incorporated the Ice House model into its landmark Broward UP program. Broward UP offers free educational opportunities, workforce training, and support services within neighborhoods throughout Broward County. Faculty designed it to put students onto a path toward a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree that will give them the knowledge to launch their own business successfully. But before the budding entrepreneurs dive in, Siddiqui said, facilitators encourage them to pause and reflect using the eight life lessons intentionally. As a result of these and other efforts with Broward UP, Broward College was honored to receive a transformational gift of $30 million from philanthropist Mackenzie Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett.
Through formal and informal experiences, between 500 and 1,000 Broward students engage with the Ice House model each year. Siddiqui is particularly excited about reaching those in the broader Fort Lauderdale community. “The response to entrepreneurship in Broward UP has been very positive,” he said. “It’s almost like therapy, in a way, for some people. You’re thinking about how you talk to yourself. What you view as your potential. What hurdles you put in your own way. It’s deeply reflective content, and folks don’t get to engage in that very often, so it’s pretty powerful. It’s one of my favorite things about my job.”
Siddiqui is mindful that the entrepreneurship activities don’t generally generate revenue for Broward. Still, he believes they are an important student service. And, outside entities agree, awarding substantial grant funding to keep the programs running and help offset the college’s costs. In Siddiqui’s new role—the Associate Vice President of BC Eduventures, Broward College’s revenue-generating direct support organization—he will be able to seek creative solutions to drive revenue.
Now that the campus community knows BCEx as a successful program for lowering the barriers to entrepreneurship, “we’ve developed a reputation on campus,” Siddiqui said. “Faculty make referrals to students to get involved with us. The adoption is very fast once folks get involved and see the work that we’re doing. It’s not a hard sell.”
Very few students disengage, he said—and when they do, it’s usually because life got in the way. That’s why he is pursuing his next goal: bringing the Ice House model to all incoming freshmen as a way to bolster their life skills as they start a new chapter in their lives.