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  1. 1. ENTREPRENEURIAL DREAMS: EXAMINING THE INTEREST, INFLUENCERS, AND PERSPECTIVES OF AGRIBUSINESS STUDENTS Created as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program Summer 2016 Carlyn Colleen Wright Dr. Lindsey M. Higgins Agribusiness Department California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  2. 2. 1 ABSTRACT With a world population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, the global agriculture industry faces a problem of meeting the growing demand for food while working with limited resources like land and clean water. Only through entrepreneurship and innovation can we combat the problems associated with agriculture, like the need for water conservation, the need for sustainable packaging, and pollution. Research suggests that college graduates are twice as likely to pursue an entrepreneurial career than those who do not graduate from college. Therefore, it is imperative that we stress the need for entrepreneurial education, especially for agribusiness students seeking to find solutions to these problems facing the agriculture industry. This study was conducted to examine the entrepreneurial interests, influencers, and perspectives of agribusiness students at Cal Poly. By conducting a survey we were able to collect responses from 140 students, 132 of those who were qualified for the study, by indicating they are current agribusiness students or alumni. Our findings suggest that a majority of agribusiness students possess entrepreneurial dreams and are interested in developing an entrepreneurial skillset.
  3. 3. 2 INTRODUCTION Entrepreneurship is commonly described as the capacity and willingness to develop, organize, and manage a business venture, along with any of its risks, in order to make a profit (Business Dictionary). A report conducted by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), sponsored by both Babson College and Baruch College, found that nearly 27 million working Americans are either starting or working for new businesses. This report concluded that just over half of Americans are looking forward to seeing new businesses emerge, and are considering pursuing a career in entrepreneurship (Buchanan, 2015). Innovation, an integral part of entrepreneurship, is the process of developing new methods, ideas, or products (Price, Stoica, Boncella, 2013). A study conducted by Accenture, a multinational management consulting services company, found that more than 90% of the executives surveyed believe that the long –term success of their businesses depends on their ability to come up with new ideas (Brooks, 2013). Entrepreneurs who are willing to assume the risks of taking on a new business venture must also be able to successfully implement new ideas or methods to set them apart from their competitors. With a growing world population of almost 7.4 billion people, the demand for innovation and entrepreneurship is at an all-time high in industries like medicine and finance, but perhaps most importantly in agriculture. Jim Carroll, a well-noted futurist, has expressed the need for agricultural innovation all over the world, but more specifically in the United States. Carroll identifies several major trends in agriculture that require the attention of entrepreneurs and innovators, including the growth in food demand, the need for new innovative packaging, sustainability and efficiency, and water conservation (Carroll, 2005).
  4. 4. 3 The UK Food and Agriculture Association estimates that by 2050, the world population will increase to be nearly 9 billion people. In order to keep up with the growing demand for food, the global agricultural industry must double its production and efficiency (Carroll, 2005). While increasing efficiency and production may be a solution to the need for food, increasing food production also poses other problems in the agricultural industry, like increasing the amount of waste that comes from packaging and processing. As the populations of cities begins to grow there are more one to two-person households rather than larger suburban households, leading many companies to shy away from large, bulk packaging to smaller more compact packaging (Muratoglu, 2015). Smart and sustainable packaging is another solution to reducing our carbon footprint. In recent years more food and beverage companies have been developing sustainable solutions like bio-degradable packaging and bio-plastics, made from crops such as corn or starch. Many common packaging products are made from synthetic polymers that do not break down over time, leading to a dramatic surge of waste that negatively impacts our environment. While it may be difficult to reduce the consumption of these plastic products due to the demand for food, people all over the world are discovering or perfecting alternative materials that can be used in replace of these synthetic polymers. The most common type of biodegradable plastics are polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), which produce zero waste and are found in many kinds of natural materials. The shift from petroleum-based polymers to bio-degradable polymers is slowly becoming a trend all over the world. Countries like Belgium and the United States now also impose taxes on plastic shopping bags and promote the use of compostable packaging (Chanprateep, 2010). The implementation of bio-plastics has the potential to significantly reduce packaging costs for
  5. 5. 4 businesses and can help reduce our global carbon footprint. These innovative packaging trends are just one example of how entrepreneurship and innovation help us to combat problems imposed by the growing demand for food. One of the biggest issues facing the global agricultural industry is water conservation and utilization. In 2008, approximately $2 billion was invested into improving current irrigation systems in the United States alone (USDA ERS). Sixty percent of fresh water in America is used strictly for agriculture, although less than 10% of farms practice advanced on-farm water management, which includes moisture sensing tools and computer-based irrigation-scheduling tools (Zimmerman, 2014). In order to improve water use in agriculture, the adoption of more effective irrigation systems to maximize the efficiency of the water used, while also minimizing waste, will become critical. By adopting new practices and products, innovative growers will find both success and the ability to conquer potential threats to global agribusiness. Being innovative is an important quality for an agricultural entrepreneur, especially when the business faces strong competition or operates in a rapidly changing environment. Because of the specialized skill required by successful agricultural entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial education is very important. It was once thought that entrepreneurs were only those born with certain characteristics, but now more research has led to the conclusion that entrepreneurial education and exposure to entrepreneurial activities can help build a strong entrepreneurial skillset. There has been a recent jump in demand all over the world for entrepreneurial education, especially at the undergraduate level (Knudson, Wysocki, Champagne, Peterson, 2004).
  6. 6. 5 While the number of working Americans interested in pursuing a career in entrepreneurship has been on the rise in recent years, a much larger proportion of undergraduate students are being attracted to the idea of creating a new business after graduation. Babson College’s GEM has found a strong correlation between education and entrepreneurship, reporting that college graduates are twice as likely to choose an entrepreneurial career path compared to those who have not attended college (Babson College). Universities and alternative online colleges are creating more entrepreneurial- focused curriculums, programs, and organizations for students interested in starting their own business. In 2000, The Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurship Leadership reported that not only are students demanding more entrepreneurial coursework and activities, but faculty and administrators of universities are as well. That same Kauffman Center report also discovered that entrepreneurship is one of the fastest growing subjects in undergraduate curricula. This increasing demand has led to more clubs and associations, internships, and even the incorporation on entrepreneurship-related majors at universities all over the United States (Kauffman Center). Many universities that offer programs in agribusiness have begun to respond to this demand as well. However, out of the approximately 40 universities in the United States with agribusiness programs, there are only a few that offer agricultural entrepreneurship programs. While it is important for agribusiness students to learn general business skills, Agribusiness requires specific knowledge of the agricultural industry, and the challenges of the environment and its limited resources like land and water. The ever-growing demand for innovation in agriculture will continue to require new ideas, practices, and technology. The need for agricultural entrepreneurial education is
  7. 7. 6 growing. The purpose of this research is to determine the extent that agricultural entrepreneurship education exists at the undergraduate level, and the perspectives of agribusiness students regarding innovation and entrepreneurship. More specifically, this research aims to: determine the level of importance of entrepreneurship in agriculture from student’s perspective, understand the incorporation of entrepreneurial skills into agribusiness coursework, measure students’ interest in entrepreneurship, and assess students’ skillset related to entrepreneurship.
  8. 8. 7 LITERATURE REVIEW This literature review will aim to establish a reference for existing data, studies, and other literature that applies to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial education. The three major topics in this review will include characteristics, traits, and attributes of successful entrepreneurs, perceptions of entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurial education. Characteristics, Traits, & Attributes of Entrepreneurs When it comes to being able to identify an entrepreneur, there are several traits that entrepreneurs share. Entrepreneurs are risk-takers who want to push boundaries and enjoy being faced with a challenge. Not only are entrepreneurs creative, but they also have the ability to communicate their ideas to others (Knudson, Wysocki, Champagne, Peterson, 2004). These ideas represent the foundation on which entrepreneurs’ new products or services are built. Entrepreneurs are also very self-motivated; they have the drive to come up with new ideas, as well as the ability to implement them (Knudson et al., 2004). Because of their intense motivation, they are also considered very goal-oriented people. Entrepreneurs are determined, persistent, and committed when it comes to their business ventures (Knudson et al., 2004). While entrepreneurs are often deemed as selfish or self-focused individuals, it is crucial to their success to maintain a strong social network. Along with maintaining a social network, entrepreneurs must be trust worthy; research by Kritikos (2011) shows that a higher level of trust in others increases one’s possibility of self-employment. However, other studies have found that people who are less likely to trust others in the workplace choose to be self-employed (Kritikos, 2011).
  9. 9. 8 A study conducted by Hand (2010) draws from the Giessen-Amsterdam model of entrepreneurial success, proposed by Rauch and Freese (2000), to identify key traits shared by most entrepreneurs. The survey used in Hand’s (2010) study asked 257 entrepreneur respondents to rate 20 different personality traits pertaining to business. A majority of respondents identified the ability to set and achieve a goal as the most important trait for an entrepreneur to have. Other traits and characteristics that were identified in the survey include: persistence, optimism, innovativeness, having a strong work ethic, and the ability to take initiative. Hand (2010) found that male and female entrepreneurs place similar levels of importance on these traits. While the characteristics and attributes of current entrepreneurs is well studied, little is known about these characteristic precursors in terms of undergraduate students pursuing an entrepreneurial career. To learn more about the antecedents and variables that influence potential entrepreneurs, Ozaralli and Rivenburgh (2016) conducted a study that compares and contrasts university students in the United States and Turkey. This study provides insight into factors that may influence potential entrepreneurs. These factors include things like “personality traits, family and friends, education and experience, political and economic conditions, and perceived motivations and obstacles” (Ozaralli & Rivenburgh, 2016). This study discusses three over-arching themes in terms of potential influences that drive entrepreneurs, which are personality factors, social factors, and societal factors (Ozaralli & Rivenburgh, 2016). The personality traits important for entrepreneurs this study hones in on are optimism, innovativeness, risk-taking, and competitiveness. Ozaralli and Rivenburgh (2016) associate these traits with successful entrepreneurs across all industries. In terms
  10. 10. 9 of social factors, the authors believe that constant exposure to new experiences and perspectives, like travelling or trying new things, boosts ones’ creativity. Other social factors include entrepreneurial education and family exposure to entrepreneurship. Another aspect of entrepreneurship that has received little attention is women’s roles in entrepreneurship. Research conducted in Germany found that women are less likely to become self-employed or engage in other aspects of entrepreneurship. Although women may be less likely to pursue an entrepreneurial career that does not mean there are no female entrepreneurs (Kritikos, 2011). A 2005 report found that on a global scale, women represented one third of all professionals engaged in some form of entrepreneurship (Kobeissi, 2010). By 2008, there were 10 billion firms owned by women and, collectively, those firms employed 13 million people. One major hypothesis for the increase in female entrepreneurs has been their frustration with the gender wage gap. While the wage ratio increased by 11% between 1980 and 1990, but only closed by an additional 5% from 1991 to 2005 (Kobeissi, 2010). Research shows that the more women perceive they are not being equally valued in the work place, the more likely they are to leave the traditional work environment and start their own business (Kobeissi, 2010). Another important factor pertaining to women in entrepreneurship has to do with whether the country she lives in is developed or not. Research shows that female entrepreneurs in under-developed countries may face more problems entering the business world due to social beliefs about women in their country, and alternatively female entrepreneurs in developed countries do not face those same barriers (Kobeissi, 2010). Knowing more about female entrepreneurs and young women likely to pursue an entrepreneurial path gives us insight into the modern day business world, where the global work force now better
  11. 11. 10 represents both genders (Kobeissi, 2010). Being able to better understand potential female entrepreneurs can show us similarities and differences in their perceptions or beliefs about entrepreneurship. This could be a useful tool to find out why more women today are interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career. While one’s personality, gender, and nationality plays a big part in determining their likelihood to become entrepreneurs, another aspect is the importance that role models have on potential entrepreneurs (Bosma, Hessels, Schutiens, Praad & Verheul, 2012). Bosma et al. (2012) surveyed roughly 300 entrepreneurs in the Netherlands in order to determine the importance of entrepreneurial role models. They discovered that entrepreneurs with higher levels of education are more likely to have a role model than entrepreneurs who do not. This same survey concluded that 40% of respondents have role models who operate in the same industry they do, 68% have a role model of the same gender they identify with, and 80% have a role model with the same nationality (Bosma et al., 2012). They also found that a majority of these entrepreneurs’ role models are close to home. About 40% of entrepreneurs surveyed claim to have “strong ties” with their role models, with 22% being family members and 19% being close friends. The remaining 60% of respondents say their role models are former employers or colleagues. Interestingly enough, only 2 out of the 292 entrepreneurs surveyed say that their role model is an international icon or celebrity (Bosma et al., 2012). The dominant function of these role models serves as an example for entrepreneurs to follow and learn from. With so many possible antecedents and influencers in ones’ life, it is important to be able to assess and properly recognize them. The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment is one of the most widely used tools that help individuals identify their strengths and talents
  12. 12. 11 (Soria & Stubblefield, 2014). By spending over 30 years and interviewing nearly two million people, Clifton developed the StrengthsFinder assessment to study, “what is right with people” (Soria & Stubblefield, 2014). Clifton believed that once people discover what they excel at in life, if they have not done so already, and then they can focus on developing those positive traits. The StrengthsFinder assessment is often used for incoming undergraduate students at universities all over the world. After completing the assessment, students are able to identify the top five traits they possess from a list of 34 traits/themes (Soria & Stubblefield, 2014). While critics of the StrengthsFinder assessment say that only focusing on the top five traits can “box students in” or stop them from developing other traits, Clifton claims the design of the assessment allows students’ individuality to shrine through and does not attempt to shy students away from examining other traits they possess (Soria & Stubblefield, 2014). In fact, “the odds of one person receiving the same top five talent themes in the exact same order as another individual are 1 in 33.39 million, providing an argument that focusing on strengths development illuminates the unique characteristics of individuals” (Soria & Stubblefield, 2014). Learning more about AGB students and their StrengthsFinder results allows us to gain more insight into precursors that influence students’ interest in entrepreneurship. Perceptions of Entrepreneurship Ozaralli and Rivenburgh (2016) discovered similarities between American and Turkish students with regard to their perceptions of entrepreneurship. Consistent with their hypotheses, students in both countries share similar personality traits like innovativeness and risk-taking. In contrast, Turkish students showed higher levels of
  13. 13. 12 optimism, and American students were by far more competitive. While most Turkish students did not anticipate becoming entrepreneurs, they discovered even fewer students in the United States were not interested in an entrepreneurial career. An explanation for this may be due to perceived risks of taking on a new business venture, as they found that American students preferred the idea of an established job with a salary rather than being part of a start-up company (Ozaralli & Rivenburgh, 2016). By also investigating the role of social factors they found that students’ exposure to art and new experiences contribute to higher levels of creativity, which in turn leads to a higher chance of pursuing entrepreneurial activities. While Ozaralli and Rivenburgh (2016) compare and contrast business students from two different countries, there is still much research to be done that focuses on agribusiness students and their perceptions of entrepreneurship A study conducted in Europe surveyed about 500 higher education (HE) students in France, Germany, and Poland (Packam, Jones, Miller, Pickernell, & Thomas, 2010). This study concluded that, in general, male students had a more positive perception of entrepreneurship prior to taking any entrepreneurial HE courses. There were different perceptions of entrepreneurship in each of the three countries these students lived in (Packam et al., 2010). For example, in general, both French and Polish students were more positively inclined to pursue a career in entrepreneurship following completion of their entrepreneurial HE courses. Finally, this study led to the conclusion that entrepreneurial education promotes and removes perceived barriers to entrepreneurship (Packam et al., 2010). Being able to learn more about students’ perceptions of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial education allows us to assess potential disconnects between students and their study of entrepreneurship.
  14. 14. 13 Entrepreneurial Education Traditional academic learning is strongly related to improving abilities to be able to identify and analyze a problem, and find a solution to that problem (Ollila & Williams, 2011). Students are given assignments and tested on how well they can solve these problems presented to them. This strict framework has led to challenges when trying to implement new ways of learning (Ollila & Williams, 2011). Universities are being pressured to produce new generations of workers who fit the mold of an ideal candidate for the workplace. These universities are not only teaching students general business skills, but are now implementing more curricula pertaining to entrepreneurship (Ollila & Williams, 2011). These entrepreneurial programs initially focused on teaching entrepreneurship, rather than creating entrepreneurs. In 2001, the Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship (CSE) in Sweden took a different approach to entrepreneurial education. The main focus of the CSE was not only to educate students on entrepreneurship, but also instill a “learn-by- doing” attitude and organize them into groups to apply their understanding on entrepreneurship and participate in real-life ventures. Students were able to pitch and idea or product and collaborate with professors, business advisors, and alumni to put together portfolios for their “companies”. Educators at CSE found that students who participated in their simulation were able to improve their current business skills and acquire new entrepreneurial skills as well (Ollila & Williams, 2011). After surveying entrepreneurial education programs in the United States, Noyes and Linder (2015) noticed that the primary focus of these programs is teaching students about independent, for-profit startups. While business plan creation is a key component of entrepreneurial education, 70% of all entrepreneurial coursework in the United States
  15. 15. 14 focuses solely on this one branch of entrepreneurship. Another important aspect of entrepreneurship that is not taught as often is known as social entrepreneurship (Noyes & Linder, 2015). Abu-Saifan (2012) provides a clear definition of what it means to be a social entrepreneur, “A social entrepreneur is a mission-driven individual who uses a set of entrepreneurial behaviors to deliver a social value to the less privileged, all through an entrepreneurially oriented entity that is financially independent, self-sufficient, or sustainable.” Social entrepreneurial ventures create new combinations of social and economic value for those both directly and indirectly involved (Noyes & Linder, 2015). The Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship Program (ADE) is a social entrepreneurship collaboration between Babson College and Olin College of Engineering in Boston, Massachusetts. ADE is an attempt by both colleges to combine entrepreneurial education and design in an effort to create successful ventures that make a positive social impact (Noyes & Linder, 2015). Every semester about 30 students from both schools enroll in ADE; they attend regular class meetings on both campuses and also travel in order to create a social venture portfolio. While participating in ADE students travel to other states such as Alabama and Mississippi, and even internationally to countries like Ghana and India (Noyes & Linder, 2015). Teams of students identify, create, and implement their ideas while also keeping in mind unique needs and challenges facing their team depending on what they are creating, and where they are working. ADE is a different approach to entrepreneurial education that focuses on creating a social impact and is a program where students encounter cultural, technological, and business problems. ADE serves as another way to teach undergraduate students entrepreneurial education from a non-traditional approach (Noyes & Linder, 2015). From climate change to the impact of production
  16. 16. 15 agriculture on the environment, many of the challenges facing agriculture may be addressed through private industry entrepreneurs inspired to make a social impact. Little is known about undergraduate student perspectives related to the future of agriculture and their interest in pursuing entrepreneurial careers. The majority of entrepreneurial education research revolves around the curricula and development of education, but it is also important to consider the effect of the teacher, their background in entrepreneurship, and how they present information to their students (Ruskovaara & Pihkala, 2014). Group projects are the most common way that professors show their students how to develop an entrepreneurial skillset. Using group projects is a way for students to improve their ability to collaborate with others, exercise their problem- solving skills, as well as exposing them to both peer- and self-assessment throughout the project. Research found that in these kinds of scenarios teachers move away from the traditional lecturer role, and become more of a mentor for their students. This same research also provided an extensive review of successful methods used by entrepreneurial educators, like consulting projects and simulations (Ruskovaara & Pihkala, 2014). The instructor’s background, attitude, and entrepreneurial skillset play a large role in the execution of their teachings (Ruskovaara & Pihkala, 2014). The stronger an educator’s business background, the better they can effectively teach their students about entrepreneurship (Ruskovaara & Pihkala, 2014). While a more extensive business background correlates positively with the ability to teach, young professors who, in turn, had less experience were more able to adopt new teaching practices than older, more experienced professors (Ruskovaara & Pihkala, 2014).
  17. 17. 16 More than 1,000 Finnish entrepreneurial educators were surveyed on how they present information about entrepreneurship to their students (Ruskovaara & Pihkala, 2014). Surveyed professors said they frequently use discussions as a platform to converse with students about the economy, current events, and local businesses (Ruskovaara & Pihkala, 2014). Ruskovaara and Pihkala (2014) found that these kinds of discussions are an easy way for them to include entrepreneurship regularly into their curricula. Educators who were surveyed, on average, arranged two field trips every semester to local businesses and had guest speakers attend lectures semi-regularly (Ruskovaara & Pihkala, 2014). By using a variety of teaching methods, entrepreneurial educators can create a program that works best for both them and their students. Not only is it important to determine a method that is appropriate for the educator, but also to incorporate methods that students are interested in as well. While this study provides more insight into entrepreneurial educators and they teaching methods they find successful, there is still much to be learned about the ways in which students are interested in developing an entrepreneurial skillset. With more universities around the world offering programs related to entrepreneurship, researchers must measure both the success of these programs, as well as any challenges or barriers these universities come across. There are several different approaches to implementing entrepreneurial education at the undergraduate level, which include, but are not limited to: classroom coursework, co-curricular learning programs, entrepreneurial competitions and programs, and internships and networking programs (Torrance & Rauch, 2013). Because no two universities use the same kind of programs, it is difficult to generalize about entrepreneurial education, but researchers have been able to
  18. 18. 17 identify similar challenges of universities who offer entrepreneurship programs (Torrance & Rauch, 2013). One of the major challenges facing entrepreneurial education is walking the line between inclusiveness and exclusivity. Offering all types of entrepreneurial education, from introductory classes for all majors to specialized advanced coursework, allows universities to use the “funnel-method” to get a large proportion of students interested in entrepreneurship and helps them find those specific individuals interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career after graduating (Torrance & Rauch, 2013). Using the “funnel- method” provides a balance between including all students and being able to allow advanced coursework to students who aim to do more in terms of building an entrepreneurial skillset. Another challenge imposed by incorporating entrepreneurial coursework is finding a balance between traditional book learning and vocational skills. By understanding their study body and being able to define what professors want to teach their students, universities offer all different kinds of entrepreneur-based curricula from introductory coursework to co-curricular activities (Torrance & Rauch, 2013). In comparison to other academic coursework, it is more difficult for entrepreneurial education programs to measure success. Traditional schooling uses homework assignments, and tests and quizzes, to assess students’ ability to understand their coursework, but entrepreneurial education faces a dilemma; how can they evaluate their students? Arizona State University identified four ways to evaluate entrepreneurial education on their campus through a program they refer to as LEO-I, which includes landscape, engagement, outputs, and impact (Torrance & Rauch, 2013). “Landscape” looks at the
  19. 19. 18 university as a whole in order to identify where and how entrepreneurial education is taking place on campus. From there they look into each of these landscapes to see how many students and faculty are involved. Once they identify the “entrepreneurial population” on campus they look at their quantifiable outcomes from the programs, like start-ups and patents etc. Finally, they determine to what extent these programs impact participating students’ lives. While impact may be harder to measure, Arizona State believes this is the best way to measure the success of entrepreneurial programs at the undergraduate level (Torrance & Rauch, 2013). While learning more about the incorporation of entrepreneurship at the undergraduate level for business students gives us insight into how to successfully implement different teachings methods, there is still much to be learned about incorporating entrepreneurial education in agribusiness programs.
  20. 20. 19 METHODOLOGY Data Collection To learn more about entrepreneurial education and how it relates to Agribusiness (AGB) students we designed a survey around the project’s research objectives. An online survey was created and hosted on the SurveyMonkey website. This survey was emailed to AGB students attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and posted on several Facebook pages pertaining to the university and AGB-specific programs. As an incentive for students to complete the survey, respondents were entered into a drawing for one of four $25 gift cards to Development of Survey One qualifying question was used to determine if respondents are current or former AGB students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. It is important that respondents are, in fact, AGB majors as this provides more insight into the beliefs and perceptions of those specific students. If respondents indicated they did not meet this qualifying condition, they were redirected to the end of the survey. While learning more about different kinds of students and their perceptions of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial education is valuable information, it is not the primary focus of this particular study. The next series of “warm-up” questions asked students about AGB courses they have taken, the extra-curricular and co-curricular activities they participate in, and their StrengthsFinder results. The Clifton’s StrengthsFinder is a test that helps people determine dominant characteristics and strengths they possess related to the business world. Examples of strengths indicated by the StrengthsFinder assessment include: Analytical,
  21. 21. 20 Communication, Focus, and Woo (Gallup Strengths Center). Being able to identify courses students have taken and assess how often students believe entrepreneurship is discussed in those classes can give us a better idea of where entrepreneurial education can be implemented in the AGB department. Not only is it important to learn about classes students have taken, but we must also learn more about students’ personal lives and how they get involved, whether that be through clubs, student government, or organized sports teams. This combined with identifying student’s strengths through the StrengthsFinder assessment gives us some background knowledge of the respondents and can allow us to make predictions about their interest in learning more about entrepreneurship. The next portion of questions asks respondents to assess their understanding of different aspects of business, like economics and marketing using a 5-point scale from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’ that, “they have a good understanding of” each of the different business sectors. Respondents are then asked to choose, from a list of 13 personality traits, the ones that describes them the best using a 5-point scale from 1 being “does not describe me at all” to 5 being “describes me completely”. These traits are directly connected to common entrepreneurial traits mentioned in the literature, including innovativeness, creativeness, and risk-taking ability (Hand, 2010). Respondents answer on a grid using 5-point scale, from ‘describes me completely’ to ‘does not describe me at all’, and a list of the 13 personality traits. Other characteristics mentioned in this question, like competitiveness and optimism, were drawn from research by Ozaralli and Rivenburgh (2016) and Knudson et al. (2004). From there, respondents are asked to identify which of these traits have been developed as a result of either AGB or non-AGB classes at Cal Poly. These questions give us a better idea of the respondents’ personalities, and help us
  22. 22. 21 determine if the respondents interested in entrepreneurship share similar personality traits compared to the traits important for entrepreneurs as identified in the literature. In order to get a better idea of students’ perceptions of entrepreneurship, respondents were asked to indicate their agreement with a series of 10 of statements related to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial education. A 5-point scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” was used. Statements included: “More schools are offering entrepreneurship programs than in the past” and “Entrepreneurs are more likely to be men.” These statements were formulated based on the extant literature, including Kritikos’s (2011) study on female entrepreneurs and the ADE program from Noyes and Linder (2015). Respondents were then asked how likely there were to pursue entrepreneurial activities in the future, on a 5-point scale from extremely likely to very unlikely. Respondents were asked to identify what influenced their interest or disinterest in entrepreneurship (e.g. knowing someone who is/was an entrepreneur like friends or family), if they had previous work experience pertaining to entrepreneurship, or if they simply had a personal interest in becoming an entrepreneur). This kind of information could be used to support the research done by Bosma et al. (2012) and their findings of how important a role model is to potential entrepreneurs. On the other hand, respondents who are not interested in becoming entrepreneurs could indicate that they have no desire to run their own business or do not think of themselves as entrepreneurs. Learning more about the antecedents and variables that influence our respondents’ interest in entrepreneurship allows us to compare our sample and their results to those discovered by
  23. 23. 22 Ozaralli and Rivenburgh (2016) in their study about influential factors of university students. The remaining questions asked students to pinpoint where and how frequently in their coursework entrepreneurship is mentioned or discussed, with options including homework assignments, group projects, or having entrepreneurial guest speakers in class. These kinds of questions help us answer our objective related to how entrepreneurial education is incorporated into coursework in the AGB program at Cal Poly. Respondents were also asked to choose from a list of entrepreneurial education methods that interest them. This list includes entrepreneurship-specific classes, entrepreneurial internships, and being able to get in contact with current entrepreneurs. The final section of the survey asked respondents about their demographics including age, gender, agricultural background, and parents’ levels of education. Procedure for Data Analysis The survey was available for two weeks, and was analyzed though IBM SPSS statistical analysis package. SPSS allows users to run statistical tests based the way the data is collected through different types of questions in surveys. Applying descriptive tests and frequencies to the data collected provides an average response to each question that can be used as a standard to compare responses to. In order to determine how much emphasis students place on the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation in agriculture, Question 11 asked students to indicate their level of agreement, on a 5-point scale, to a series of statements like, “I believe meeting the world’s food demands will come as a result of innovation in agriculture.” By comparing
  24. 24. 23 their responses to this question and running an independent t-tests based on class level, gender, and likeliness to pursue entrepreneurial activities, we can determine if any of these factors influenced respondents' levels of agreement to the statements listed in Question 11. To determine how, and to what extent, entrepreneurial education is currently being implemented in the Agribusiness department at Cal Poly, we used independent t-tests to compare our results from the "Extent" section of the survey. Question 15 asked students to identify where and how often, on a 4-point scale of “often, sometimes, rarely, and never”, entrepreneurship has been mentioned in their AGB coursework. Students used the 4-point scale to indicate the frequency that entrepreneurship has been mentioned in homework assignments, projects, lectures or discussions, guest speakers, and the encouragement of their professors to join an extracurricular or co-curricular activity pertaining to entrepreneurship and/or innovation. By conducting an independent t-test based on their responses to Question 15, and their class level and likeliness to pursue entrepreneurial activities, we can determine if upperclassmen or perhaps those more interested in entrepreneurship found that is was mentioned more frequently in specific areas of their coursework. Several questions from the survey were designed to better understand students’ overall desire and interest in entrepreneurial education and entrepreneurship in general. Question 12 asked students to indicate, on a 5-point scale from "extremely likely" to "very unlikely", how likely they are to pursue an entrepreneurial career. The two following questions allow respondents to identify what led to their level of interest in becoming an entrepreneur. By conducting independent t-tests based on respondents’ likelihood to pursue an entrepreneurial career, their class level, parents’ level of education, gender,
  25. 25. 24 background, and where they grew up, we aimed to find any possible influencers or reasons why certain respondents were more likely to pursue entrepreneurial activities than others. Questions from the “Interest in Learning More” section was used to get an idea of students’ level of interest in building an entrepreneurial skillset, on a 5-point scale from “very interested” to “very interested”. Using another independent t-test comparing their likeliness to pursue entrepreneurial activities and their level of interest in learning more allowed us to determine a relationship between respondents’ likelihood and interest in entrepreneurship. In order to assess students’ skills related to entrepreneurship, we used responses from the “Self-Assessment” section of the survey where respondents indicated their level of understanding of basic business components like economics and marketing, on a 5-point scale, as well as to what extent each of the 13 personality characteristics listed in Question 8 describes them. We used two one-sample t-tests to compare students’ personality traits against the “neutral” response of 3, and “somewhat describes me” response of 4 (from the 5-point scale), to determine the average response to each of the personality traits. We also used these responses in several independent t-tests based on gender, class level, and likeliness to pursue entrepreneurial activities to find any potential connections between those classifications and respondents’ indication of each of the 13 personality traits. Assumptions & Limitations We assume that respondents have taken the survey on their own will and understand they were not forced to participate. It is also assumed that they were able to understand the questions and information mentioned in the survey as presented. Finally,
  26. 26. 25 we assume that respondents answered truthfully and that the sample taken accurately represents the population of AGB students at Cal Poly SLO. By using Facebook and email as platforms to distribute the survey, this results in a convenience sample as it excludes AGB students without Internet access, and also allows students with Internet access to distribute the survey to others outside of the initial list of those requested to participate in the survey.
  27. 27. 26 RESULTS During the two-week period that the survey instrument was available, responses were gathered from 140 individuals. Of those respondents, 132 met the qualifying criteria of being a current or recent graduate of the Cal Poly Agribusiness program. Table 1 below provides a summary of the demographics of students who participated in the survey. The sample size was fairly equal among genders, with 48% males and 52% females. Almost 70% of students surveyed are between the ages of 20 and 22, and nearly 80% of students are Caucasian. Although no incoming freshmen were surveyed, 31% of the respondents are juniors, 34% were seniors, and the remaining 36% were either sophomores, students going into their fifth year, or recent graduates. Roughly half of students have parents who have obtained at least a Bachelor’s Degree, and 57% of students come from a suburban hometown. Table 1. Demographics of Survey Respondents (n=132)
  28. 28. 27 Students were asked to identify their strengths based on the results of their Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment. Interestingly enough, none of the respondents identified Self- Assurance as one of their strengths. Gallup Strengths Finder describes a person who possesses the Self-Assurance trait as, “someone who feels confident in their ability to manage their own lives. They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right” (Gallup Strengths Finder). While responses to the remaining 33 traits were distributed fairly evenly, over 56% of respondents possess the Achiever trait, which is described as having strong work ethic and finds satisfaction in being productive. Another 27% of respondents share the Competition trait, and 25% share the Restorative trait, meaning they are good at identifying problems and finding solutions to them (Gallup Strengths Finder). Interestingly, there appears to be some overlap between these top three strengths and the key traits of entrepreneurs based on research by Hand (2010). Hand (2010) surveyed 257 current entrepreneurs who identified being self-confident and competitive as two major traits of successful entrepreneurs. Objective One In order to determine how much emphasis students place on the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation in agriculture, and their perceptions of entrepreneurship, we conducted several different independent t-tests comparing levels of agreement with different statements related to entrepreneurship and agriculture. By comparing the mean levels of agreement among different respondent demographics, we aimed to isolate any potential differences among the sample. After comparing the responses from Question 11 and categorizing the students based on class level, gender, where they grew up, and their
  29. 29. 28 likeliness to pursue future entrepreneurial activities, we discovered that perceptions of entrepreneurship and the agribusiness industry were fairly homogeneous among the respondents. Based on the 5-point scale used in this question, with 5 being “strongly agree” and 1 being “strongly disagree”, we found that seniors had a mean response of 3.3 and sophomores had a mean response of 2.6 to the statement regarding the numbers of entrepreneurs in the agriculture industry. This difference is statistically significant (p= 0.003), suggesting that seniors and recent graduates believe there are more entrepreneurs in other industries aside from agriculture. Table 2. Mean Responses of Respondents’ Agreement with Statements Regarding Agriculture and Entrepreneurship (n=115) Objective Two To determine how, and to what extent, entrepreneurial education is currently being implemented in the Agribusiness department at Cal Poly, we used answers from the “Self- Assessment” and “Extent of Current Entrepreneurial Education” sections, which asked respondents to identify where and how often entrepreneurship is mentioned in their
  30. 30. 29 coursework. In general, students believe that they hear the most about entrepreneurship from guest speakers (78%), 80% believe it sometimes comes up in homework assignments, and roughly 60% of students say that entrepreneurship is often brought up during discussions in class. After conducting an independent t-test based on the responses from the “Extent” section of the survey and dividing the students into underclassmen and upperclassmen, we found the only significant difference was that upperclassmen reported more frequently heard about entrepreneurship than underclassmen. This may be because upperclassmen are more concerned with their career after graduation, and upper-division courses may discuss different career paths students can take. We conducted another independent t-test to compare students based on their likeliness to pursue an entrepreneurial career and found no statistically significant differences among their responses. The “Self-Assessment” section asked students to identify the one personality trait from the 13 traits listed that has been the developed as a result of AGB and non-AGB classes at Cal Poly. Sixteen percent of respondents identified “working well with others” and “not being afraid to ask for help” as two characteristics that have become the most developed as a result of taking AGB classes, while 20% of respondents say that they have become more open-minded as a result of taking non-AGB classes (see Table 2).
  31. 31. 30 Table 3. Development of Characteristics from AGB & Non-AGB Courses (n=113) Objective Three Analyzing questions from the “Interest in Entrepreneurship” and “Interest in Learning More About Entrepreneurship” sections of the survey helped us to better understand students’ overall desire and interest in entrepreneurial activities, and assess any potential disconnects between students and Cal Poly’s AGB program. Respondents were asked to rate their likeliness of pursing entrepreneurial activities from extremely likely to extremely unlikely, followed by a question asking them to identify what influenced their interest, or disinterest, in becoming an entrepreneur. Overall, we determined that 69% of the respondents indicated they are likely or extremely likely to pursue an entrepreneurial career. Respondents who expressed their interest in entrepreneurship indicated that they know someone who is an entrepreneur (52%) or simply have a personal interest in becoming an entrepreneur (57%).
  32. 32. 31 Table 4. Respondents’ Likeliness to Pursue an Entrepreneurial Career (n=115) We then went on to conduct independent t-tests based on students’ class level, their parents’ highest level of education, gender, where they grew up, and the background in agriculture. While there were no major differences among these groups, we found that upperclassmen and female students, in general, were less likely to pursue an entrepreneurial career path. Because of these results we hypothesized that upperclassmen may not be as inclined to become entrepreneurs because they are more aware of risk that comes with starting your own business, or may have discovered a new field of work they prefer. For the likelihood of pursuing entrepreneurial activities, we found that male respondents had a mean value of 1.98 while female respondents had a mean value of 2.37 (based on a scale where 1 was “extremely likely” and 5 was “extremely unlikely”), a statistically significant difference (p=0.043). From these mean values we determined that a large proportion of female students are not interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career. Questions 16 and 17 asked students to identify their level of interest in learning more about entrepreneurship or building an entrepreneurial skillset, as well as how they
  33. 33. 32 would like to go about doing so. In Question 17 students could select from entrepreneurial classes, internships, clubs, and getting in contact with current entrepreneurs. We found that 67% of students were interested in developing an entrepreneurial skillset, 85% of respondents were interested in entrepreneurial specific courses, and 79% wanted to get in contact with current entrepreneurs for future work. By running an independent t-test based on students’ responses from Question 16 and their likeliness to become an entrepreneur (based on a 5-point scale from 1 being “extremely likely” and 5 being “extremely unlikely”), we determined that students who indicated that they were less likely to become an entrepreneur were, in turn, less interested about learning more about it; although female students, with a mean value of 2.14, indicated that they were still interested in learning more regardless of their likelihood to become an entrepreneur, compared to male respondents with a mean value of 2.02. Objective Four In order to learn more about students and their skills related to entrepreneurship we used their answers from the “Self-Assessment” section. Respondents indicated their level of understanding for several differences aspects of business including entrepreneurship, and trends and issues in agribusiness. By conducting an independent t- test comparing their responses and their likelihood to become an entrepreneur, we found that students who indicated that they were very unlikely to become entrepreneurs believed they had a better understanding of laws and policies related to business, as well as trends and issues in agriculture. We also found that female respondents, compared to male respondents, indicated that they have a better understanding of marketing. It can be
  34. 34. 33 hypothesized that better understanding business laws and issues facing the agriculture industry may lead to students becoming more fearful of pursing entrepreneurial activities. Question 8 from the “Self-Assessment” section asked students to indicate to what extent each of the 13 entrepreneurial characteristics listed describes them (see Table 5). In general, respondents strongly identified themselves as being tenacious (87%), versatile (86%), competitive (87%), self-motivated (92%), and open-minded (88%). A majority of respondents (91%) also said they work well with others and are not afraid to ask for help as needed. It is important to note that although none of the students said they possess the Self-Assurance trait from the Gallup StrengthsFinder, they did still describe themselves as self-motivated. Table 5. Extent to Which Entrepreneurial Characteristics Describes Respondents (n=120) After conducting two separate one-sample t-tests against the “neutral” response indicated by the number 3 and the “somewhat describes me” response of 4, we found that students who identified themselves a risk-taker felt as that it only described them to a
  35. 35. 34 certain extent, while students who identified themselves as competitive felt that that described them more completely. We also ran three independent t-tests between their responses and class level, gender, and likeliness to become an entrepreneur. While there were no significant differences in the responses based on class level, we did find that students who are more likely to become entrepreneurs thought of themselves more as risk- takers (p-value of 0.000). Recall the 5-point scale used for this question went from 5 being “describes me completely” to 1 being “does not describe me at all.” Male respondents, with a mean response of 4.2, were more confident in their skill sets related to entrepreneurship compared to female respondents, with a mean value of 4.0.
  36. 36. 35 CONCLUSIONS The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions and influencers pertaining to agribusiness students’ interest in entrepreneurship, specifically for students at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. By using an online survey, we were able to collect responses from 132 AGB students and recent graduates, and learn more about their perceptions of, and interest in, entrepreneurship. After analyzing our results from the survey we determined that a large proportion of AGB students (70%) are interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career path after graduation. While these results were fairly homogeneous among different groups of respondents, we found that underclassmen were more likely to indicate that they were interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career than upperclassmen. Regardless of how interested students are in pursuing an entrepreneurial career, we found that students are still interested in learning more about entrepreneurship. These students indicated they would be most interested in entrepreneurship-specific coursework and meeting current entrepreneurs to learn more about what makes them successful. Much like Bosma et al. (2012), who learned that a majority of the entrepreneurs in the Netherlands had a role model that influenced their interest in becoming an entrepreneur, 52% of AGB students who indicated that they were likely to pursue an entrepreneurial career said they were influenced by a family member, friend, or coworker who is an entrepreneur. Based on previous literature and results from our survey we can conclude that having some form of a role model or current entrepreneur to look up to is very influential to students interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career.
  37. 37. 36 Not only are AGB students at Cal Poly interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career, but most of these students possess the traits and characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. We learned from previous literature that successful entrepreneurs are often described as competitive, persistent, and innovative (Knudson et al., 2004). After analyzing the results from our survey we learned that most of the AGB students described themselves as self-motivated, tenacious, and versatile, which are some of the most common traits of successful entrepreneurs. One of our more fascinating findings came from students’ StrengthsFinder results. We found that of the students who identified their StrengthsFinder results, 56% of them listed Achiever as one of their strengths, followed by Competition and Restorative at only 27%, while the remaining traits scored between 18% and 2%. With such a large proportion as students possessing the Achiever strength, meaning they have a strong work ethic and find satisfaction in being productive, suggests that AGB students possess many positive entrepreneurial traits. Not only do these students possess strong entrepreneurial traits, but they also have a good understanding of different aspects of business like economics and marketing. The combination of these personality traits and general business knowledge has led us to believe that these students who are interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career already possess the foundation of successful entrepreneurs and that there is an opportunity to further develop their entrepreneurial traits. While the majority of students indicated they are interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career following graduation, we found that women, in general, indicated that they are less likely to become entrepreneurs. We also found that when students were asked to indicate the extent that each of the 13 entrepreneurial personality characteristics
  38. 38. 37 describes them, women seem to be less confident in their skills related to entrepreneurship. Kritikos (2011) discovered similar findings when studying business women in Germany, who were less likely to be self-employed or engage in entrepreneurial work than their male counterparts. Despite the lack of interest in pursuing an entrepreneurial career we found that female students are still interested in learning more about entrepreneurship and building an entrepreneurial skillset. We believe that teaching women about entrepreneurship and helping them building an entrepreneurial skillset can help to eliminate the perceived barriers into entrepreneurship. Agribusiness students indicated that entrepreneurship is often brought up in class through lectures or discussions, having guest speakers, or even by professors encouraging them to join clubs or organizations pertaining to entrepreneurship. While some entrepreneurial education does exist at the undergraduate level at Cal Poly, we found that AGB students are not entirely satisfied with that is currently being offered. After analyzing the results from our survey we found that 67% of students, regardless of their interest in pursuing an entrepreneurial career, are interested in learning more about entrepreneurship. These students indicated they would be interested in taking entrepreneurship-specific classes, joining entrepreneurial clubs or organizations, and getting in contact with current entrepreneurs for future work. With such a high percentage of students indicating their interest in learning more about entrepreneurship we believe that universities should offer more entrepreneurial education opportunities.
  39. 39. 38 Recommendations While we were able to learn more about AGB students and their perceptions of, and interest in, entrepreneurship, there is still much to be learned about undergraduate students in general. One area of fruitful research would be to track students after graduation and follow them in their pursuit for an entrepreneurial career. It would also be useful to dive more in depth into possible precursors and influencers of students’ interest in entrepreneurship. More specifically, it would be valuable to learn more about females’ hesitations in pursing entrepreneurial careers, despite their budding interest in developing an entrepreneurial skillset. Although we were able to determine that students’ demographics (ethnicity, class level, parents’ education, background in agriculture, etc.) did not play a large role in influencing their interest in entrepreneurship, it would be fascinating to determine if there are other possible antecedents that influences students’ perceptions of, or interest in, entrepreneurship. This study of AGB students at Cal Poly serves as a foundation, which other universities can use to learn more about their students and their perceptions of entrepreneurial activities. Being able to understand the larger student population as a whole can help universities who are seeking to implement entrepreneurial education and promote students to venture out and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. We have found that a majority of students are interested in learning more about entrepreneurship. Given the role that innovation and entrepreneurship is likely to have when it comes to addressing the issues facing agriculture, universities may want to implement additional entrepreneurial education opportunities to meet the demands of students seeking to build an entrepreneurial skillset and pursue an entrepreneurial career.
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