Entrepreneurship to Engineering Students
Bethany S. Oberst, Ph.D.
Jones, Ph.D., P.E.
World Expertise LLC (
Ion Tiginyanu, Ph.D.
In 2003 the Technical University
of Moldova successfully piloted an ambitious entrepreneurship program for a
group of its students, consisting of formal instruction and an internship with a
successful Moldovan entrepreneur. This
paper describes the project and the place of the program within the framework of
Entrepreneurship education has
taken on a new role in the past several years, as the international development
community has begun to realize its importance in rebuilding and reorienting
countries whose economies need to be recast, revised, rebuilt or revitalized.
While large scale, globally financed projects are often required to
rebuild a country’s essential infrastructure, individuals must begin to
believe that there is a place for them in the new economy, and that they have
the capacity and skills to control a part of their destiny.
Capacity building requires both individual and collective initiative if
it is to succeed and result in real economic benefits.
Teaching people how to be entrepreneurial within the context of their own
evolving economies is a working link between large-scale international efforts
and the destiny of the individual.
At the end of World War II, the land that is today
Higher education in
Much of what we take for granted
when we in the
During the visit of TUM Vice
Rector Dr. Tiginyanu to the
of faculty and students
The first challenge was to
identify professors with international experience, and experienced specialists
in economics to teach in the pilot program.
The Project Director, Prof. Dr.Sc. Ion
Tiginyanu, has worked for two years at the Technical University in Darmstadt
(Germany) collaborating with several microelectronic companies from Europe, and
for six months at the University of Michigan (USA) where he learned about the
foundation of small enterprises by US scientific researchers.
He has been responsible for an international project in the field of
nanotechnologies financed by the NATO Scientific Division (1997-2000), as well
as many others.. Now he is the president of the Commission of Experts on
International Collaboration at the Supreme Council for Research and
Technological Development of the
Prof. Dr. Victor Sontea, Dean of the
Faculty of Computers, Informatics and Microelectronics at the Technical
University of Moldova, is responsible for the entrepreneurial inventory,
tracking former scientists and engineers who might want to learn entrepreneurial
skills as a way of transitioning out of the old directed economy. He has been
vice manager of the TEMPUS/Tacis JEP-10230 on the implementation of Master’s
studies at the Technical University of Moldova, designed the pilot modules on
“enterprise management” and “the business plan,” and he has served as
the manager of a joint research project in Romania.
Professor Rafael Ciloci, doctor in
economic sciences and lecturer at the Technical University of Moldova, is
responsible for the management of the entrepreneurship course. He has
participated in the TACIS Program (“Promotion of Higher Economic Education in
Dr. Elena Chislari, an economist who
The project team worked in close
collaboration with Dr. Bethany Oberst, Dean of the
Students enrolled in advanced
courses in the Faculty of Computers, Informatics and Microelectronics were asked
to express interest in participating in the pilot program, which would be taken
as an “overload,” in addition to their regular courses. A test was
administered to properly select the initial class of thirty-one students from
among the seventy-two who wanted to take part. It was felt important to
investigate student abilities such as intellectual level and organizational and
leadership abilities. University
grades were not a significant consideration: preference was given to
English-speaking students, those who looked convincing when describing their
plans for future private business.
From the first, internships were
designed to be an integral part of the pilot program. The internship constituted
the final stage of the educational process, following the formal instructional
program organized for the spring of 2003. The objectives of the internship were
to permit students to synthesize the benefits of the entrepreneurial program, to
evaluate their new knowledge and skills, and to create the foundation for the
development of their own business.
For placement sites both large
and small enterprises were chosen. The managers of many SMEs were contacted and
those who agreed to personally supervise the work of students during the
internship were selected. At the end of their internships, the students prepared
a report. Some students even succeeded in drafting a business plan for
themselves during the internship.
The Center arranged the placement
of students with these successful Moldovan entrepreneurs. The students worked
for a minimum of twenty hours per week in the position of manager (under a
supervisor’s control) for a period of two months. Prior to the intern’s
arrival, the supervisor was trained how to engage the students in work
assignments that were not only productive for the company, but also important
for student learning.
All students followed the same
curriculum in the spring semester:
How to set up a private enterprise.
The legal basis for small and medium
Cash flow and accounting of income and expenses.
Financial indicators. Budget and cost
Notions about the account evidence.
Human resource management.
Basics of marketing
Management under conditions of
International Workshop on Entrepreneurship Education
In order to recognize the accomplishments of the students
who successfully completed the pilot program, to attract favorable public
opinion to the new
When asked for feedback, most
students said that the entrepreneurship course and their subsequent internship
were very useful. Some of them recommended that the course be enlarged. Also, it
seems that the internships at small companies were more successful since the
students observed flexibility, orientation to innovations, etc. All students
found attendance at the closing International Workshop on Entrepreneurship
Education very useful. They learned about how entrepreneurship is promoted in
other countries, in particular in the
The pilot program was a good
experience for professors, as well. Some of them, in particular, took note of
the reactions of students during the 1st semester and modified the
content of lectures for the 2nd semester. Some professors concluded
that the course should be added into the regular university curriculum.
And finally, the faculty attended the International Workshop on
Entrepreneurship Education and found it useful, in particular the contribution
of foreign specialists.
The entrepreneurs themselves
gained useful experience from serving as mentors, although some of them
mentioned that July-August is not the best time for internships. The managers of
small enterprises expressed their interest in hiring some students after their
graduation from the university.
New sources of financial support will be
Three new modules will be added to the
program: Managing a small enterprise; Quality management; and Intellectual
The program will be expanded to include
participation of students and teaching staff from the following faculties:
Faculty of Computers, Informatics and Microelectronics, Faculty of Civil
Engineering, Faculty of Urban Planning and Architecture, Faculty of Textile
Industry, and Faculty of Radio-Electronics and Telecommunications.
To ensure a better selection of students
certain questionnaires and tests have been designed to allow the faculty to
determine the intellectual level, temperament and individual characteristics of
applicants, as well as their organizational and leadership abilities. Priority
will be given to socially active applicants, oriented to self-achievement and
The course will end with a graduation
The ultimate goal of the projects
supported financially by the Soros Foundation
Programs and activities to be run under the umbrella of the
to offer training courses for graduate students of the
· to organize two-month internships for graduates;
to identify active researchers and entrepreneurs in
· to serve established and potential entrepreneurs by providing them with access to the most up-to-date information to help keep their products competitive in the world markets;
· to serve to develop Moldovan faculty expertise in entrepreneurship, so that future generations of students will be appropriately educated;
· to serve Moldovan students by offering instruction and experience in business practices that complement their engineering studies;
to serve Moldovan researchers by connecting them with potential
to serve the City of
There is an additional important issue related to the
regional impact of the new
With vital support from the Soros
Foundation Moldova and the Eurasia Foundation, the International Center for
Entrepreneurship at the Technical University of Moldova has succeeded in
establishing a viable education program for university students, is making
progress toward institutionalizing entrepreneurship education as a regular part
of the TUM curriculum, has created productive ties with local industries and
successful Moldovan entrepreneurs, and is taking steps to reinvigorate
scientists, engineers and researchers whose livelihood was destroyed in the
political and economic aftermath of the breakdown of the Soviet Union. In its
comprehensive design and strategic collaborations, the Center can serve as a
model for other universities which seek to identify their role in their
country’s economic growth and recovery.
The notion of teaching
entrepreneurship in economies emerging from the former
S. Oberst is Professor
and Dean of the
C. Jones is a private consultant, working
through World Expertise LLC to offer services in engineering education in the
international arena. Prior to that, he had a long career in education: faculty
member at MIT, department chair in civil engineering at
ION TIGINYANU is
Professor and Vice Rector at the Technical University of Moldova, in Chisinau.
His responsibilities include international studies, entrepreneurship programs,
and scientific research leadership.