Preview Class Introduces Idea of Entrepreneurial Thinking in Education

Posted by Pamela Van Halsema on July 26, 2013 9:13 AM


The room in Salazar Hall was filled with educators and community members: school teachers, principals and superintendents, community organization leaders, college students, and local business people. They had all come to explore the idea of entrepreneurial thinking in education in the Preview Class for Unleashing Entrepreneurial Spirit at Sonoma State University.

Organized as a follow-up to the ieSonoma community-wide event featuring Sir Ken Robinson, the pundit who claims in his popular TED talk that 'schools kill creativity', the evening offered participants a chance to engage in an in-depth dialog about how to foster innovation in schools, and helped them get a taste of what the four-session course would be like when it begins on August 26. The Preview also provided a forum for course planners to hear what aspects of entrepreneurship participants are most interested in exploring. In subsequent sessions, students will have the opportunity to meet and talk with people who are entrepreneurs and innovators in their field, engage in critical dialog and deep thinking about creativity and innovation, and work on developing their own strategic plans.


Mark Nelson, Codding Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Sonoma State University and William Silver, SSU Dean of the School of Business and Economics were the featured presenters for the Preview Class. Their talk focused on how they envision entrepreneurial thinking can be applied in educational settings. Entrepreneurs need to have a vision, be creative and resourceful, recognize opportunity, take risks and learn from failure. Working in small groups, Preview Class participants discussed the nature of creativity and innovation, and explored how those ideas might be applied in a new way to their work in schools, organizations, businesses and the community.

To design and lead the class, SSU Educational Leadership Professor Paul Porter pulled together a team that includes Jennie Snyder, Superintendent of Piner-Olivet Union School District, Dan Blake, Director of Innovations and Partnerships, Sonoma County Office of Education Mark Nelson, Codding Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Sonoma State University and former President and COO of the Nelson Family of Companies. This is one of the collaborative learning initiatives that Porter is working to develop this year for the School of Education.

In planning the class, the team felt it was important to leave the Unleashing Entrepreneurial Spirit course outline open at first, and didn't finalize details of the course content in advance; they waited to meet with the Preview Class participants and engage in discussions with them about their needs, and their ideas about creativity and innovation before sketching out the mini-course's full outline. Many who attended were looking for ways to incorporate some of the '21st Century Skills' into their classrooms and expressed the need to be ready for the new Common Core Standards curriculum changes, while others were looking for ways to develop community partnerships that could help support student learning. Some said they hoped to develop their leadership skills to foster a climate of innovation in their schools and organizations. Most of the Preview participants plan to attend the four fall class sessions.


"The first session was inspiring and productive," noted course facilitator Jennie Snyder, " We had a wide range of experiences and backgrounds among the participants. I was particularly impressed with their level of engagement and commitment to creating positive change in their organizations."

Registration is still open for the Unleashing Entrepreneurial Spirit Class. The cost for the four Monday night sessions (8/24, 9/9, 9/23, 10/7. 6:00-8:30) is $50, plus an option to earn one CEU for $55 more. For more information about the class and how to register visit