My Research

Intentional Design of Peer Influences

The Challenge Facing University Entrepreneurship Education

A rapid increase in U.S. entrepreneurial education has not led to more new venture creation. As of 2012, there were over 2,100 colleges and universities with an entrepreneurship curriculum, up from 100 in 1970. Yet, there has been no significant impact on the rate of new entrepreneurs over the past two decades, especially in the 20-34 age range [1]. It seems that entrepreneurship education is not creating any more new entrepreneurs, especially in those college age to 10-years post college age.

An Entrepreneurial Approach to Improving Entrepreneurship Education

  • ”Customer Discovery”: In 2015, we began 500 student ethnographic interviews around the support of the UVA entrepreneurship ecosystem regarding student projects
  • Literature Review: Review of hundreds of current research articles on entrepreneurship education.
  • Prototyping Experimental Programs: Releasing minimum viable prototypes, scrapping what was ineffective, and doubling down on what worked to serve student entrepreneurs

Works in Progress: UVA Engineering’s Unique Approach

At UVA, we have seen a massive increase in student engagement on an independent entrepreneurial project due to our focus on the intentional design of peer influences to cultivate and spread the ever elusive “entrepreneurial mindset.”[2] We have also seen project quality increase—we have won in the ACC entrepreneurship competition three years in a row.

These approaches include a focus on individual relationships, Mastermind Groups, and filtering based on student’s active engagement on an independent entrepreneurial project.


[1] Fairlie, Robert W., et al. “The Kauffman Index of Startup Activity: National Trends 2016.”SSRN Electronic Journal, 2016, doi:10.2139/ssrn.2883389.

[2] Zorychta, Alexander J., and Elizabeth P. Pyle. “The Social Mechanism of Supporting Entrepreneurial Projects Beyond the Classroom.” ASEE 2017 Conference Proceedings, 2017.