Dr. Jacob Pittroff teaches at two historic schools in eastern Missouri, both of which face similar recruitment challenges—and both of which have an entrepreneurial mindset that starts at the top.
Christian Brothers College High School (CBC), founded in 1850, is an all-male, Catholic college preparatory high school with more than 800 students. A few miles to the north lies the main campus of Lindenwood University, founded in 1827. Lindenwood has nearly 7,400 undergraduate and graduate students at its campuses in St. Charles and downtown St. Louis.
Entrepreneurial mindsets through a student’s educational journey
Pittroff chairs the business department at CBC and is an adjunct business and entrepreneurship professor at Lindenwood. And, from these vantage points, he is in the perfect position to evaluate the tools that help students thrive along their educational journey from incoming high school freshmen to graduating college seniors. At both schools, he uses an Ice House curriculum from the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative.
“As the economy changes and technology and innovation change, we are seeing entrepreneurship becoming a fundamental skill at the high school and college levels,” he said. The Ice House definition of entrepreneurship as the self-directed pursuit of opportunities to create value for others resonates with students of all ages—and with administrators.
Adapting to changes in the educational landscape
Leaders at both CBC and Lindenwood grapple with the possibility of declining enrollment over the past decade. That is to say, competition for students at private schools has escalated, causing the potential for a decline in enrollment. In both cases, they chose to focus on entrepreneurship as a differentiator.
CBC did this by opening the Dunne Family Innovation Commons in 2018. The 8,000 square-foot facility is home to CBC’s STEM Academy as well as the Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurship. CBC designed the three-part focus to inspire 21st-century learning and experimentation.
Pittroff has offered the Foundations of Entrepreneurship course as an elective to more than 400 CBC students in the past three years. Furthermore, the program will expand this year with another of Pittroff’s colleagues trained in the Ice House model.
In 2019, Lindenwood welcomed President John R. Porter, who created a task force to grow the entrepreneurship program within the university. Therefore, President Porter has charged the task force to widen the reach of entrepreneurial thinking across the local academic, business, and social landscape. Pittroff is a member of this group.
Entrepreneurial education as a precedent
Even before Porter’s installation as president, Lindenwood offered the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program within its Duree Center for Entrepreneurship. The Center is part of the John W. Hammond Institute for Free Enterprise. And, in addition to engaging students in the fundamental aspects of an entrepreneurial mindset, the program includes access to a vibrant online entrepreneurial learning community. As a result, participants and facilitators share knowledge and experiences at the community, national, and global levels in this community.
Certainly, Pittroff is optimistic about the work CBC and Lindenwood are doing at both a regional level in the St. Louis area, where awareness of the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset is growing and at the individual student level. “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.”