Teaching International Entrepreneurship through Student Exchange: Observations, Obstacles and Recommendations

Article excerpt


While most scholars and researchers recognize that entrepreneurship occurs differently in other countries, there are relatively few undergraduate courses that focus on International Entrepreneurship. Further, of those with an International focus, few provide students with an opportunity to interactwith aspiring entrepreneurs from other countries. The following summarizes the results of six collaborations intended to test several models for international student exchange. Each of the collaborations included either one or two-way travel among participants, hosting responsibilities, and cultural activities. The authors present a number of observations and obstacles that will assist facilitators interested in providing similar course offerings. The article concludes with recommendations for future course offerings including a sample itinerary.


International Entrepreneurship, Student Exchange, Cross-cultural education


Entrepreneurship education was initially introduced in the United States in the late 1940s (Katz, 2003). Since then, the field has witnessed phenomenal growth with over 300 endowed positions, 100 centers and over 550 schools in the U.S. offering entrepreneurship courses both within and outside business schools (Katz, 2003; Kuratko, 2005; 2006). This growth caters to an increasing interest in entrepreneurship courses among students. USA Today (2006) reports Gallop Poll results indicating 69% of high school students are interested in starting their own companies. In addition, some of the leading business schools in the nation (Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Business, Stanford University, and the Harvard MBA program) report growing interest among their students in studying entrepreneurship and/or becoming entrepreneurs (Fiet, 2001a).

More recently, scholars have recognized the importance of the international dimensions of entrepreneurship. International entrepreneurship is defined as "the discovery, enactment, evaluation and exploitation of opportunities - across national borders - to create future goods and services" (McDougall & Oviatt, 2003, p. 7). Jones and Oberst (2003) believe that entrepreneurship "must be taught within the global context; lacking that, graduates will be ill prepared to be internationally competitive" (p. 2). While the authors focus on the importance of teaching international entrepreneurship to engineering students, such a focus is relevant for students in other disciplines as well. This is consistent with Bell, Callaghan, Demick and Scharf (2004) who argue that "academic formation ...of international entrepreneurs... is particularly crucial in light of the emergence of small entrepreneurial 'born global' firms that have been able to take advantage of technological advances to internationalize rapidly" (p. 109). Born global firms are those companies formed expressly with the international market in mind (Oviatt & McDougall, 1994)

Despite an increasing attention from public authorities and researchers (Dana, 2004), the importance of the international dimension of entrepreneurship has had few repercussions on its teaching. A recent web search identified only a handful of American business schools which offer International Entrepreneurship courses (Appendix A). Bell, Callaghan, Demick and Scharf (2004) note that despite the growth in the number of entrepreneurship programs offered at American academic institutions, "their primary focus tends to be on the study of entrepreneurship in a domestic market setting" (p. 110). This observation may be attributed to several factors. First, the majority of the teaching developments in the field of entrepreneurship come from the United States, a country whose domestic market is often self-sufficing for firms. Second, research on international entrepreneurship, which should support education programs, is still in its infancy and has only recently identified the competitive advantages of firms that are born global (Wij ewardena & Tibbits, 1990). …