Waynesburg University is encouraging a new spirit of entrepreneurial leadership on campus. The term “entrepreneur” does not just apply to the business field, but calls for students to enter a certain mindset they can greatly benefit from in their lives. A new minor was introduced on the topic as well as changes to Fiat Lux classes to introduce these ideas to students freshman year.
“My charge was to really enfuse the entrepreneurial mindset to every student on campus – exposure to the entrepreneurial mindset,” Dr. Melinda Walls, the W. Robert Stover Chair for Entrepreneurial Leadership, said. “We decided to do that by offering it in Fiat Lux courses.”
Walls was hired to facilitate this new entrepreneurial leadership initiative. She is responsible for the changes in Fiat Lux this year, including the study of the book, “Who Owns the Ice House?” written by Pulitzer nominated author Clifton Taulbert and Gary Schoeniger.
This book is a story about a black man, who grew up in Mississippi in the late 1950s. There were very limited opportunities for people during this time, but this man was able to work with his uncle, who owned the only ice house in the county.
“In this section of Fiat Lux, we talk a lot about the difference between spending and investing, and the types of rewards you get,” Walls said. “How you spend or invest your time really tells a lot about who you are and who you’re going to be.”
The goal of this initiative is not to breed entrepreneurs, but to introduce a new mindset to students going into their freshman year. A large part of putting this mindset into practice is changing from a “consumption mentality into one of a doing, action mentality,” as Walls describes.
Walls said she wants to debunk the common misconception that the term “entrepreneur” only relates to the business department.
“Having this open mindset is one that allows you to see things differently, recognize opportunities and solve problems that are important to you and the world around you,” Walls said. “What we want to do is have students fall in love with a problem that is important to them and then find, develop and execute a meaningful solution.”
The mindset of an entrepreneur can also directly apply to the service aspect of Waynesburg University, one of the mission statement’s core values. Students are going to be taught to move from idea to implementation, and whether this is in the business department or a service project, the hope is that students will benefit from this mindset wherever they choose to go.
As Fiat Lux is changing for students, sophomore pre-medical biology major and student ambassador Andrew Gordon is closely involved with Fiat Lux classes as a student mentor in biology professor Dr. Rossiter’s class.
“I do see a more noticeable emphasis on recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, recognizing your personality and an emphasis on entrepreneurship,” Gordon said. “In order to steer our own boats and become entrepreneurs in any facet, it’s important to be in tune with our own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to recognize what can be done.”
While Fiat Lux classes are still generally the same, the emphasis on entrepreneurial leadership is very noticeable in the course syllabus, and the mindset is now integrated into the class.
“[Entrepreneurship] can be done very creatively, and no matter the major, it can be done, depending on what you’d like to implement and the goals that you have in mind,” Gordon said.
Gordon, despite not being a Fiat Lux student anymore, is still learning from the course this year by understanding the importance of being outgoing to advance one’s career and being willing to accept problems to pursue solutions, no matter your major.
“I would like to see more students from disciplines across the university elect to take our entrepreneurial leadership minor, where they can actually get more instruction on taking concepts from idea to implementation,” Walls said. “We’re working with faculty in various departments to identify classes in which students can have active problem-solving, results-based project learning.”