Location: Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri
Undergraduate students in the system: 4,822
Graduate students in the system: 2,560
Undergraduate and graduate programs: 104
As Lindenwood University approaches its 200th birthday in 2027, its leadership is working to position the school as a premiere destination for entrepreneurship in the St. Louis region. The president has established a task force to research ways to widen the reach of entrepreneurial thinking both within the university itself as well as across the local academic, business, and social landscape.
Faced with a plethora of college and career choices, prospective post-secondary students are looking for more than a degree from institutions of higher learning. They want meaningful experiences that promote the skills and knowledge to become lifelong learners. “As the economy changes and technology and innovation change, we are seeing entrepreneurship becoming a fundamental skill at the high school and college levels,” said Dr. Jacob Pittroff, an adjunct business and entrepreneurship professor at Lindenwood.
Pittroff serves on the university president’s task force. His role is helping to grow the entrepreneurship side of the Plaster School of Business and Entrepreneurship. Also, widen its spectrum of influence across academic disciplines like the arts, sciences, and music.
Lindenwood offers the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program within the Duree Center for Entrepreneurship. The purpose is to inspire and engage participants in the fundamental aspects of an entrepreneurial mindset. In addition to using the Ice House curriculum, the program includes access to a vibrant online entrepreneurial learning community where participants and facilitators share knowledge and experiences at the community, national, and global levels.
In 2019, Lindenwood’s John W. Hammond Institute for Free Enterprise hosted a Global Entrepreneurship Week. The lineup of speakers included Clifton Taulbert & Gary Schoeniger, who co-authored “Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur”. Then Pittroff, who completed ELI’s facilitator training, joined the conversation to speak about how to create an entrepreneurial university.
After that, Pittroff was invited to join the entrepreneurship task force newly created by Lindenwood President John R. Porter, who had assumed his role in July 2019. Pittroff’s day job is teaching business and entrepreneurship at Christian Brothers College High School, so he is uniquely positioned to understand the perspective of students on the cusp of graduation. He’s also an Ice House enthusiast who believes that “young people who embrace adaptability and resilience in adversity will be the ones who are successful in leading and growing companies.”
By approaching entrepreneurship from many angles, Lindenwood is raising its profile among its own business students. In addition, the wider business and academic communities in St. Louis. One example is the Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneur Network (ITEN), which became a division of Lindenwood in May 2020. ITEN was created in 2008 to help tech entrepreneurs launch successful new businesses ventures by offering educational programs and services. It has supported more than 1,300 startups in creating thousands of jobs and raising hundreds of millions in funding. As a result, it now plays an integral role in supporting Lindenwood’s commitment to entrepreneurship and innovation education.
Pittroff describes ITEN’s Eureka Program for aspiring business owners as “entrepreneurship on steroids.” Its rigorous application of the entrepreneurial mindset is exactly right for the most ardent startups—but it’s not for everyone. Pittroff believes that students who’ve been exposed to entrepreneurial thinking via the Ice House model can embrace it as a continuum where they also have a place. That’s why he adapts the Ice House strategies and activities for the innovation special topics course he teaches, where participants include traditional college students as well as older adults who are going back to school to change careers.
“Look at how many businesses closed during COVID versus how many pivoted and innovated,” Pittroff said. “Students who see that are going to be the ones who embrace an entrepreneurial mindset. And if you approach entrepreneurship from that lifelong learning perspective, you’re going to be successful.”