The Kern Family Foundation

Award Date: August 2011


Union College has been awarded a $75,000 grant from the Kern Family Foundation to strengthen an initiative to foster an entrepreneurial mindset in undergraduate engineering students, as part of the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN). The entrepreneurial mindset is embedded in Union College’s history and mission.  Union educates students to become engaged, innovative, and ethical contributors to an increasingly diverse, global, and technologically complex society. Throughout all phases of a Union education, students develop capacities for innovation and creativity by taking courses and practica in visual and performing arts, design and entrepreneurship courses, modules and projects.  With ABET-accredited engineering programs and an institutional commitment to both entrepreneurship and integrative liberal education, Union is positioned to become a valuable member of the KEEN Network. As a member, Union will systemically foster the entrepreneurial mindset in all of its engineering students so that they can become positive contributors to business and society.


Union’s KEEN project involves PIs working with external Kern Fellows to recruit and prepare faculty to infuse the entrepreneurial mindset among engineering students throughout their Union experience with curricular (from introducing mindset in intro engineering course, to modules in creativity and business fundamentals in sophomore and junior years, to product concepts for commercialization in senior capstone courses), co-curricular (a fund for student exploration and creativity), and extra curricular (competitions and experiential learning) opportunities. Union will give all engineering students the chance to listen to the customer, identify needs and opportunities, design solutions, evaluate solutions and implement a sustainable plan that will succeed and persist. Students will become comfortable with failure and recognize that failure is an opportunity to learn. It is our hope there will be widespread support of our approaches and that others will adopt these pedagogies (KEEN Theory of Change).