The Price-Babson SEE Changed My Education Life


April 2016 | By: By Stephan Van Der Merwe, SEE Alum

Estimated reading time: Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Key Takeaways

  1. A 2014 participant of the Price-Babson Symposium for Entrepreneurship Educators (SEE) has adopted much of Babson’s approach to teaching entrepreneurship in an MBA module at the North-West University School of Business and Governance in South Africa.
  2. The professor tries to create a dynamic classroom environment with uncertain, yet exciting outcomes, in which students are in control of reaching their end destiny.
  3. Students have high praise for the professor’s highly interactive and engaging teaching style which “elevates a normal classroom setting to one of open-mindedness, freedom for expression and thinking out of the box.”
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I am teaching a compulsory entrepreneurship module in the two–year, part-time MBA program at the North-West University School of Business and Governance, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa.

I attended the Price-Babson Symposium for Entrepreneurship Educators (SEE) in January 2014, and it changed my life as an entrepreneurship educator. Although I have long been a disciple of the Timmons way of thinking (Entrepreneurship can be learned.), I picked up a few new tricks and restructured my MBA module to move closer (very close, I must admit) to the current Babson approach to teaching entrepreneurship.

One can easily fall into the trap of rationalizing one’s entrepreneurship education effectiveness and the value that one adds to the MBA program or to students’ lives (If you are brave enough to claim that), but the best way to assess the value of a course, in my opinion, is to ask students for their testimony. Included are some of their comments:

“The practical learning approach was one of the highlights of my MBA-learning experience. The ‘out of the norm’ approach, epitomized by the Puzzle and Quilt exercise, ensured a lasting retention of clear principles. There are two kinds of people, those who build puzzles and those who make quilts. Those who are guided within strict rules within a box mindset and those with imagination that apply creativity and innovation to solve problems. Not only did I gain knowledge from the entrepreneurship module, but I have also gained inner knowledge and greater confidence in possibility that I might start a new venture soon. I’ll be making quilts soon.” – Morné van den Bergh

“Prof. Stephan took the concept of interactive learning to the next level. His interactive classes were a welcome break from the normal modus operandi I had become used to during the course of the MBA. The result—a positive skills transfer that illustrated and conceptualized theory into practical knowledge that will remain relevant throughout my lifetime. The vigor and enthusiasm in which he delivered his lectures was inspiring and truly a privilege to have been part of.” – Theshan Govender

“The MBA has afforded me the opportunity to look at things differently, but Prof. Stephan took this to greater heights. His teaching style is perhaps eccentric, yet very powerful. He has elevated a normal classroom setting to one of open-mindedness, freedom for expression and certainly thinking out of the box. From building puzzles to creating quilts, we did it all in entrepreneurship. Proud to say I was able to achieve distinction due to his ‘strange’ methods of teaching. Thank you Prof. Stephan for adding this value to my life.” – Sheena Pillay

“Entrepreneurship takes on a new dimension when Prof. Stephan teaches his classes. He engages students in classroom activities through humoristic, though practical examples and experiences. It is a new way of thinking—design thinking—thinking out of the box. The approach ensures students interact in class, work more effectively in groups, find creative ideas and ultimately provide a solution to a problem that seemed difficult to solve. The new way of teaching stimulates creativity and improves cognition. Interactive activities included playing around with ideas—building “puzzles and quilts,” ensuring student creativity, but also following a systematic approach from idea generation to a workable concept. I truly enjoyed Prof. Stephan’s approach to entrepreneurship and recommend this approach to any institution that wants to develop students into future entrepreneurs.” – Adele Kloppers

“I believe that Prof. Stephan’s approach to presenting entrepreneurship really made the course engaging and entertaining while still getting the core messages of the module across to the class. I personally thought that it was one of the best modules that I have completed in my MBA program.” – Isak van Niekerk

“My experience of the Design Thinking methodology was one of positive and deep understanding. The end result was not the mediocre, regular-shaped expected outcome, but rather a fresh outcome and at times unexpected. We had an idea and took the risk to run with it. Even though the concepts were not flawless, iterations led us to the next possibility to succeed as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is a way of life that offers boundless opportunities to those who truly have faith in it and live by it.” – Morné van den Bergh

Please allow me to put the above-mentioned comments in perspective. The entrepreneurship module is presented in a generic MBA program mostly to students employed by the corporate sector. The main purpose of the module is, therefore, to introduce the students to entrepreneurial thinking in the corporate environment. My personal teaching philosophy is that management is a simple science based on a few basic principles of effective management. My task is to fill the student’s toolbox with tools that they can use in their work and personal lives. I, furthermore, truly believe that teaching entrepreneurship is not based on a process. It is a very dynamic environment with uncertain, yet exciting, outcomes. Students should be in control of reaching their end destiny (the “pilot in the sky” principle), and they, therefore, should use the tools or methods that they have learned in their MBA program to reach their destiny.

It is, furthermore, my humble opinion that any personal praise given to me by students is not the result of my superior teaching skills, but rather the result of the opportunity to teach such a wonderful and exciting course. Thank you to Babson College for filling my entrepreneurship education toolbox with valuable tools and for giving me the opportunity to hone my skills to play a small part in creating entrepreneurial thinkers.