A Case Study of Curriculum Entrepreneurship: Integrating Social Entrepreneurship Education into Engineering

Open Access
Fedri, Melanie Elizabeth
Graduate Program:
Higher Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
September 27, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Karly Sarita Ford, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Karly Sarita Ford, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • David S Guthrie, Committee Member
  • Gerald K Letendre, Committee Member
  • Timothy Grant Pollock, Outside Member
  • Lisa R Lattuca, Special Member
  • higher education
  • curriculum
  • curriculum change
  • curriculum innovation
  • curriculum entrepreneurship
  • entrepreneurship
  • bricolage
  • engineering education
  • social entrepreneurship
  • social entrepreneurship education
  • entrepreneurship education
  • entrepreneurial process
Much research on how curriculum reform occurs in higher education has focused on top-down models that deemphasize individual agency and overlook bottom-up processes of innovation. This case study, in contrast, described and analyzed the process by which an engineering instructor used the strategies and tools of entrepreneurship, honed through his own ventures and the courses he taught, to develop and build support for an innovative undergraduate program, as well as how individual-, unit-, and organizational-level factors affected his actions and thus the development of the curriculum. Data comes primarily from 96 interviews with 83 engineering faculty, administrators, students, and various internal and external collaborators, supporters, and partners associated with this process, collected over a 10-month period. Analyses produced description of the process of curriculum innovation, and focused in particular on the perspectives and actions not only of the engineering instructor, as a curriculum entrepreneur, but also those who supported, contributed to, or viewed themselves as competitors of the program. I provide evidence of an entrepreneurial process in which the curriculum entrepreneur (and eventual director of the program) created the program as the founder of a startup might create a business venture. This effort coalesced a collection of relevant, but initially unrelated educational activities into a startup-like entity marked by boundaries, competition, and customer-equivalents that, by the conclusion of the study, reached a semi-institutionalized phase of development. While institutional culture, structure, and priorities exerted influence on the program’s development, the curriculum entrepreneur’s success in navigating different institutional levels and unlocking resources controlled or influenced by others depended on his skillfulness in several areas: coping with uncertainty around the availability of resources, applying entrepreneurial tools, and exercising savvy with regard to organizational considerations and the curriculum development process. I propose a theoretical model of the process by which the director worked to institutionalize the curriculum and offer a set of propositions to guide research on the usefulness and development of the theory of curriculum entrepreneurship.