The Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at California State University, Fresno is a nationally-ranked entrepreneurship center which inspires students, faculty, alumni and community leaders to act on ideas that build a prosperous future. The Lyles Center was founded in 2003 through a partnership between California State University, Fresno and local entrepreneur William M. Lyles. The continued support from the Coleman Foundation has enabled the Lyles Center to build programs and activities that foster sustained growth of entrepreneurship and innovation throughout the region.
The Entrepreneurial Pathway program is an effort to identify and create mechanisms which employ the tools of the classroom – consistently applied in high school, community college and university settings – to the building of entrepreneurship knowledge, skills and action. The “Entrepreneurial Pathway” is built through collaboration among California’s Central Valley high schools, community colleges, and California State University, Fresno through employment of common curriculum, extracurricular activities and other means. Educators across these various systems build curricula, develop classroom content and catalyze community support for the delivery of knowledge and teaching of skills to students who become inspired and capable of taking action geared towards the launch of a new business.
The Lyles Center identified a champion, known as a Coleman Scholar, at each of 11 community college campuses (College of Sequoias, Madera Center, Fresno City College, Allan Hancock College, Merced College, Porterville College, Reedley College, West Hills Lemoore, Columbia College - Sonora, Bakersfield College and Willow International) and met monthly with them to form a team of educators to develop a common course offered at all schools that was similar to an offering at California State University, Fresno. Scholars received guidance on pedagogy and course content. The cohort of Coleman Scholars was further built through joint attendance at annual conferences of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE).
High school programs employing curricula and programming developed by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) were built out in Fresno each year and Coleman Scholars assisted in the development of local NFTE programs in area high schools near their campuses. Scholars developed Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) student groups on their campus and brought members to the CEO National Conference where students gained direct exposure to inspiring entrepreneur speakers. These CEO students also serve as mentors to their local NFTE classrooms, where applicable.
- All 11 campuses have developed entrepreneurship courses, and further work is being done to develop an additional sequence of entrepreneurship courses to offer to students in pursuit of self-employment. The additional sequence will consist of courses developed as part of a certificate in entrepreneurship as well as for Associate of Science degrees.
- Students taking the Introduction to Entrepreneurship course at the community colleges are able to receive credit for it at California State University, Fresno upon transfer. With successful completion of the community college course and earning an A or B grade, these students are able to take upper level entrepreneurship courses.
- 23 NFTE programs within 11 middle and high schools were established to create the high school on-ramp to the Pathway.
- High school students that successfully complete the NFTE course receive course credit for the Introduction to Entrepreneurship course on the articulating community college campuses. If the student is dual enrolled with Fresno State while taking the NFTE course, they also can receive credit for the course at California State University, Fresno.
Key Lesson Learned: CEO Clubs are core to growing vibrant programs
CEO clubs generate momentum in spreading entrepreneurship across campus as well as build camaraderie among students while they build knowledge of self-employment topics. Some colleges offer CEO as a course or lab so that students meet on a regular basis and receive course credit for the hours they meet. The course offers more structure to the club and a presence of faculty advisors at every meeting. With meetings occurring more than once a week, there is more time spent on vetting business ideas and greater success in managing a CEO student run business. The students also have a larger incentive to participate since they are earning course credit. Each club member who attends the CEO national conference has the freedom to attend any workshop he or she wants but is required to participate in one option (e.g., moderate a panel, pitch in the CEO National Elevator Pitch Competition). The conference allows members of the class/club to grow closer to becoming business professionals and entrepreneurs.
Key Lesson Learned: Regular engagement of upper management is needed
It was essential to gain the support of the correct level of campus leadership and have them identify the instructors that they want involved. In this case, support was secured from the Chancellor at one community college district and campus presidents and department deans within other districts. Concise updates should be sent to upper management at the community college level, specifically to chancellors of each district involved in the Entrepreneurial Pathway, district and college personnel in charge of economic and workforce development, college presidents, vice presidents of instruction, division deans and department chairs. On occasion, upper managers were unaware of the results achieved by Scholars. Therefore, the Pathway did not receive the support that might accompany a successful initiative. It is important to increase the marketing and public relations efforts at the Pathway colleges. Also, political environments on campus sometimes make an endorsement from more than one administrator necessary to ensure overall support for the program.
Key Lesson Learned: Articulation between high schools, community colleges and universities can establish a curricular pathway
If a community college campus articulates the entrepreneurship course with high schools, the student will not have to repeat the course at the community college or at the four-year university. If the course only counts towards college credit and the formal articulation agreement is not in place, the student will receive the credit but may need to repeat the course once they reach the community college. There needs to be a 2+2+2 agreement in place to ensure articulation. In regards to the Central Valley region, there is a meeting once a year to work on securing formal articulation agreements between high schools and community colleges. During the fall, contact should be made with the high school NFTE instructors to encourage their participation in these 2+2+2 meetings to support the development of articulation agreements.