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NC State becomes part of KEEN to improve entrepreneurial thinking in engineering

Students work inside the Entrepreneurship Clinic on Centennial Campus.
Students work inside the Entrepreneurship Clinic on Centennial Campus.

This fall, NC State University joined the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN), which brings together engineering faculty and staff members who aim to prepare students to graduate with entrepreneurial mindsets. As a land-grant university with a philosophy of Think and Do, NC State’s goals to prepare students to succeed in their chosen industries and create value in the world align well with KEEN’s mission.

NC State joins 52 other KEEN Partner universities and colleges from across the United States. It is the fifth university from North Carolina to join KEEN, following Wake Forest University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Campbell University and Duke University.

Anna Howard, teaching professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE), leads NC State’s partnership with KEEN, along with Jennifer Capps, assistant vice provost for NC State Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Joel Ducoste, the College of Engineering’s associate dean for faculty advancement.

Through KEEN, partner institutions contribute to and share resources to fulfill their collaborative mission to help engineering students think with an entrepreneurial mindset, which encompasses “the three Cs” — curiosity, connections and creating value. 

“We are delighted to be a part of Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network,” Ducoste said. “It is a logical step forward to share our long-standing entrepreneurial experience and excellence through the NC State Entrepreneurship program, but take it further to incorporate KEEN’s three Cs into our engineering curriculum and courses. It is my hope and belief that through this partnership, our undergraduate and graduate students will be more equipped to solve complex global engineering problems with high levels of innovation and societal impact.”

“Learning about the entrepreneurial mindset (EM) reinvigorated how I felt about my job as a teaching professor,” Howard said. “The projects I’ve worked on involving EM in the classroom have really helped the students connect the information together in an exciting way.”

NC State Engineering has a strong entrepreneurial background, with NC State Entrepreneurship providing many resources for students and faculty members to turn their ideas into startups. The College has also previously been involved in the Engineering Unleashed community before becoming an official partner. 

Katherine Saul, a professor in MAE, was recently named an Engineering Unleashed Fellow for 2022 in recognition of her leadership in engineering education and commitment to developing engineers with an entrepreneurial mindset. She is one of 21 individuals to be named Fellow and received a $10,000 grant award for her project.

Saul participated in the 2021 Engineering Unleashed Faculty Development National Workshop Program. She presented at the Leadership Unleashed workshop on how faculty members can more effectively integrate new technologies into their courses, while ensuring the course content and learning technologies are aligned.

“The overall goals of my KEEN Faculty fellowship are to 1) emphasize connections (one of the three Cs of the entrepreneurial mindset) and transform delivery of college engineering curriculum using adaptive learning to better support learners in the introductory engineering mechanics sequence, and 2) expand the reach of these materials and practices by sharing courseware for use at the three leading engineering programs in the (University of North Carolina) System (NC State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, University of North Carolina at Charlotte),” Saul said in a release.

KEEN was founded by the Kern Family Foundation, which was founded in 1998 to empower the rising generation of Americans to build flourishing lives anchored in strong character, inspired by quality education, driven by an entrepreneurial mindset and guided by the desire to create value for others.

Learn more about KEEN at