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U of I Program Reaches Out To Entrepreneurship Teachers

By Jim Pollock

Indianola High School teacher Cinda Blythe calls it the best summer course she's taken in her 25 years in the education field. She's referring to the Seminar in Entrepreneurship and Iowa Youthbiz, which is offered to teachers through the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa as a way to help them learn how to teach entrepreneurship to their students.

"Business teachers understand financial concepts, but applying that knowledge to business starts is a different ballgame," said Dawn Bowlus, the student activities and outreach coordinator for the JPEC. "We're training teachers of all disciplines who teach from sixth grade up to the community college level. Last summer, we did five training sessions around the state."

The JPEC is a partnership among the university's Henry B. Tippie College of Business, College of Engineering and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and University of Iowa Health Sciences.

The teachers-turned-students pay a $40 course-material fee and earn graduate credit through the university that counts toward their certification requirements. Their study topics include opportunity recognition, innovation and creativity, market research and analysis, entrepreneurial finance and business planning.

The program is open to all Iowa teachers who teach entrepreneurial concepts or have an interest in starting classes on that topic. So far, teachers have applied their training to classes in careers, business, marketing, foods, retail sales, economics and agriculture.

According to some of those teachers, they return to their own classrooms armed with new sources and ideas to share with future entrepreneurs. For example, "this year we got a [computerized] template that the kids can use for making a business plan," said Blythe, who is teaching two sections of her entrepreneurship class this semester. "They choose a business they'd like to run, and the template takes them through the process of making a plan. The course also showed us a lot of Web sites that kids can use for research and activities."

At Saydel High School, Chris Bohnet plans to pass along her entrepreneurship training by having her marketing students operate an in-school store. "The old concession stand will become ‘Eagles Landing,'" said Bohnet, who has taught entrepreneurship for 15 years. "It will be open every morning, and the students will run it through the noon hour and handle the bookkeeping work." They'll be graded on the results.

After completing a JPEC course, participants receive Internet access to customized materials. They can download PowerPoint presentations, lesson plans and activities related to entrepreneurial topics, and they can post ideas and questions on a discussion board to interact with other entrepreneurship teachers. So far, all initial training has been done in a traditional classroom setting, but that might change. "We hope to create a nationwide online program," Bowlus said. "It would be distance-based education with no face-to-face classes."

The JPEC also teaches students directly in a summer camp called the Entrepreneurship Academy. Dick Jacobson, founder and chairman of the board of Des Moines-based Jacobson Cos., donated money to create the camp. It was held at the U of I last summer and is scheduled to add a second location in 2005, the new John and Mary Pappajohn Higher Education Center in Des Moines.


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