Students and Faculty Embrace a ‘Game-Changing’ Mindset
Location: Daytona Beach, Florida
Instructional sites: 7
Students enrolled: 22,000
Degree programs: over 100
Daytona State College’s comprehensive approach provides access to more than 100 certificate, associate, and bachelor’s degree programs as well as a bevy of post-secondary vocational programs and non-credit continuing education options for skills and credentials. Its student body is extremely diverse, but economic challenges are common; approximately 90 percent of students receive scholarships or financial aid.
Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs are a strong focus at Daytona State. It has a long-standing partnership with the local business community. When the Florida Department of Education put out a request for proposals for its Entrepreneurship, Education, and Training Grants, Daytona State was able to put together a strong application. This application was not for a traditional startup-focused program such as an incubator. Rather, it was for an entrepreneurial mindset approach that could benefit the entire student body. In February 2021, the college received a grant award for nearly $100,000.
The idea to use an entrepreneurial mindset approach originated with Dr. Sherryl Weems, Associate Vice President of the Mary Karl College of Workforce and Continuing Education. She had learned about the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative’s Ice House model years earlier. Although she had studied implementations at other colleges, she had never had an opportunity to launch it.
Weems believed many of Daytona State’s students already had many of the skills the Ice House curriculum talks about. Her goal was to help them see this in themselves—and to understand that these are characteristics employers value. “They have an entrepreneurial mindset, but they don’t call it entrepreneurship,” Weems explained. “It’s just survival. They see a need or an opportunity, and they pivot because it’s a way of life, especially if you’re juggling bills and expenses and trying to feed your family. But they don’t have a sophisticated name for it.”
Dee Gay agreed. As the Chair of the School of Cosmetology and Barbering, she works with many students who don’t see that they have an entrepreneurial mindset already. “When they realize what it is, that has been the most empowering thing,” Gay said. “They want to succeed, and this is giving them the steps. We have entrepreneurs right in our midst who have started businesses. Now, they have the tools for coming up with capital or a business plan—or they will go out and be an employee with that mindset and move ahead because of it.”
The grant enabled Daytona State to create the Entrepreneurial Mindset Opportunity initiative in 2021. The multifaceted initiative supports programs that introduce students to an entrepreneurial mindset, teacher training, expanded partnerships with local businesses, a speaker series, an entrepreneur in residence, and more. “Instead of offering the Ice House curriculum as a separate track”, Weems said, “the college incorporated the content into the curriculum students are already studying”.
The college used innovative marketing and branding strategies to launch the EMO initiative. Instead of trumpeting the news, the campaign teased out the idea of entrepreneurial thinking. It piqued students’ interest with questions like these posted all over campus:
- Are you a visionary?
- Do you think innovatively?
- Have you ever thought of yourself as an entrepreneur?
“There’s a home for everyone in those three questions,” said Facilitator and Student Advisor Teresa Rand, the consultant who spearheaded the branding and marketing efforts.
ALL HANDS ON DECK:
Getting teachers to be interested and involved was the next step. Once they were committed, Gay’s role as lead faculty for the EMO initiative meant she engaged with them to help frame curriculum integration. This way, delivery would be seamless across all disciplines. She and two other CTE colleagues were the first Daytona State personnel to be trained as facilitators, and they hit the ground running as soon as they had returned.
Meanwhile, Rand was working on the community outreach side, lining up 25 guest speakers from local businesses. Weems credited her with creating a “brilliant campaign” around the eight concepts that embedded the mindset among both students and faculty. Her tactic was simple: For each planned event, she gave the speaker a choice of handwritten cards that contained one life lesson plus a phrase about it from the book “Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur.”
“Each time a speaker came,” Weems said, “students connected the dots and understood that they were talking about the eight concepts”. The lessons being learned became very real for them.
And after the speakers, Gay added, “Students would stay in the classroom an hour with questions, wanting more.”
The business community was equally enthusiastic. Many of those who had supplied letters in support of the grant application was invited to join the advisory group that meets three times per year. They were adamant about spreading the entrepreneurial mindset education opportunity across campus rather than confining it to the CTE programs.
“Daytona State has always had support from the business community,” Rand said, “but the excitement about this entrepreneurship program was also impacted by COVID. Business owners were losing employees, and they noticed that the ones who stuck with them were the ones who had an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Daytona State’s grant application set modest goals for the first year. For example, they predicted the number of students who would receive entrepreneurial mindset content during the first six months at 80. They reached 400. For spring of 2022, they estimated they would reach 400 students. Instead, they are on track to reach 1,000 thanks to a combination of successful marketing and faculty members’ enthusiasm. They had expected to certify four additional faculty in the latest round of funding but had great interest. Thus, they amended the grant to include additional funds for 14 faculty training and certification. The faculty continue to express an interest in the next certification opportunity.
“Students are hungry for this,” Gay said. “In my program, students do 30 hours a week of face-to-face instruction. I asked them to give me at least 25 hours more in a semester to learn the entrepreneurial mindset content. I had 40 volunteers—and they completed 36 additional hours.”
Success stories have piled up quickly. For example, at the college’s student-run salon, students assumed responsibility for every aspect of its operations. “That was powerful,” Gay said, adding that, as a result, “we saw our job placement improve to higher than the state average.” The program advisory board composed of local salon and barbershop owners also has told Gay how much better prepared the recent graduates were for jobs.
Students excelled at the individual level too. “One earned a photography degree along with her cosmetology degree so she could share her work on social media,” Gay said. “She opened her salon the day of graduation. Now she’s opening a second salon.”
The local business community welcomes startups like those, but it’s even more excited about the potential for workforce development. “Employers say having an entrepreneurial mindset is a game-changer,” Weems said. “Credentials get you in the door for an interview, but the mindset gets you the job.”
To help all the faculty understand the community’s needs in terms of entrepreneurship—and to help them teach from the Discovery Canvas regardless of the subject matter of their courses—the grant included an entrepreneur in residence. Darlynn Tacinelli is that person for the 2021-22 school year. She is a local entrepreneur for a social media firm. She hosts regularly scheduled seminars and empowers faculty to make mindset empowerment connections outside the Ice House curriculum.
FUNDING A SUBSTANTIAL FUTURE:
The grant also funded the EMO Resource Center. Weems described it as a physical place to make the abstract concept of entrepreneurship more concrete. It houses a repository of information ranging from books to videos documenting the initiative’s first year. This includes plentiful video from the campus-based TV station that recorded everything from guest speakers to roundtable discussions to an appearance by Clifton Taulbert, author of “Who Owns the Ice House?” and entrepreneur who co-founded Stairmaster, among other innovations. The station edited the footage into this 27-minute video that captures details of the initial phase of the EMO initiative.
As part of the marketing effort, Daytona State put up large, framed posters featuring the eight life lessons at all seven of its learning sites. “Putting a name to the survival skills students already have gives them a level of confidence that you can literally see light up their faces,” Rand said. So, she’s planning a refreshed campaign soon to continue to expose new students and reinforce the mindset of students who’ve already learned it in their courses.
“The value of the entrepreneurial mindset has been established with clear intent at Daytona State College,” Weems said.