BY: DANIEL SCOTT MITCHELL, STAFF WRITER
Think back to your childhood summers; the blazing sun was beating down on the world, a heat mirage was dancing on the asphalt, and just about everyone was seeking a reprieve from the stifling heat. The conditions were perfect for what has become a rite of passage for most youth: a lemonade stand.
The childhood lemonade stand is touted as the perfect introductory lesson to becoming an entrepreneur. But, for many, lemonade stands are the only lessons in entrepreneurship they ever get — and that’s a shame because, in today’s world, entrepreneurial skills are more important than ever.
I’ve had the opportunity to found multiple businesses and also work at successful startups like Tesla and Formlabs. Through my experiences, I found an immense discrepancy between the entrepreneurial skills I needed to succeed and the entrepreneurship training that I received in my education at Mason.
While I’ve been fortunate enough to learn entrepreneurial skills on my own, I feel I would have been significantly better equipped for success if Mason had given me the opportunity to learn those skills at school. Mason should do a better job of educating their students in entrepreneurship by including it in the general education curriculum.
There’s an unfortunate misconception that entrepreneurship courses are relevant only for entrepreneurs, but that’s simply not true. While entrepreneurial skills are certainly necessary for the students who will go on to start their own businesses, they are also important for anyone who wants to be successful in the workforce. Entrepreneurial attributes would make Mason students more employable, and above all, equip them well to make a positive impact — no matter where they work.
For example, every student’s problem-solving and decision-making skills could be drastically improved with entrepreneurship coursework. Running my own business taught me to clearly evaluate challenges, develop a sound plan and execute effectively. I also learned the importance of measuring the outcome of any action and optimizing for the future based on my findings. This is an important business application of the scientific process that I never learned in my curriculum at Mason.
Also, entrepreneurship education could yield a number of benefits for students in terms of their personal growth. Entrepreneurship taught me how to evaluate and tolerate risk when making decisions — a skill I wish I had learned in school. Being an entrepreneur is also empowering; it helped build my self-confidence to the level where if I realize a change I want to see in the world, I believe I can make that change myself. It is confidence like this that could inspire all Mason students to take initiative and solve the problems they see in their day-to-day lives.
Finally, Mason should be interested in offering entrepreneurship courses as part of the general education curriculum because it wouldn’t just benefit the students — Mason would have a vested interest in it as well.
A Mason that better equipped its students with entrepreneurial skills would garner a more powerful reputation among employers. Also, Mason would benefit financially because more businesses would spin out of the university — and more successful businesses for alumni means more donations in the future.
Many of us may have begun to learn the principles of entrepreneurship in our first lemonade stand, but it is crucial that Mason students continue that education through the core curriculum at the university level. Entrepreneurship skills are critical for any student to be successful, whether an entrepreneur or not. Mason should do a better job of equipping its students to make a bigger impact on both the Mason community and the world as a whole.
This essay is part of Fourth Estate’s special opinion section on the Mason Core curriculum from the Feb. 24, 2020 issue. Check out the lead essay here, which includes links to all the other essays.