Connecting Industry and Students

You don’t have to change who you are as a company in order to bring in the entrepreneurial mindset. You just have to change your approach in what you’re doing.
- Katherine Atkinson, Marquette University

Marquette campus

Connecting Industry and Students

by Katherine Atkinson, September 11, 2019. This article originally appeared in the KEEN 2019 Annual Report. Reprinted with permission.

When I came to the Opus College of Engineering in 2017, I inherited a 100-year-old co-op program that connected students with over 250 industry partners each year. Yet the trends were troubling. Students would do one or two terms with an industry partner but then ask for other placements. Industry partners wanted to “try out” a student with the goal of offering them a full-time opportunity, but sometimes the fit just wasn’t right. 

How could we make sure our program served stakeholders more effectively and was relevant in the 21st century?

The entrepreneurial mindset (EM) held the answer. If we could make sure that students were adding concrete value and that employers understood the breadth and depth of that value, there would be better student-employer matches leading to long-term success.

We set about ensuring this success in multiple stages. The first key aspect was to make sure students understood the 3C’s we were building into our curriculum. Then we introduced EM to our Industry Advisory board, which is comprised of 15 employers. While initially wary of the word “entrepreneurial,” they were soon clamoring for students who could provide that value!

“We need people to think differently so we can stay relevant and competitive.”

Additionally, we hold independent conversations with students and employers to assess readiness. Students and their supervisors or mentors attend an EM workshop the semester before the co-op begins. And we provide students with a Key Indicator Model to ask questions during the interview process to find out on their own if the company is a viable match.

We also added two more Cs. 

  • One is Core, which involves basic functions of a job. 
  • The other is Consequences

For Marquette, it’s not about the skillset and it’s not even about EM. It’s about ethics. While our graduates are adding value, they must also think about the ethical implications and consequences of their decisions and actions.


We’re happy to report that employers are adopting the 5C model. This gives them an even stronger framework of support and allows for risk-taking and curiosity to take place within co-op experiences. One of our stand-out industry collaborators even requires students to do an end-of-term presentation to show how they think and approach work, and how they’ve absorbed and displayed EM. 

We’re looking forward to seeing how adoption leads to greater effectiveness over the next couple years.

Associated Content

Student Entrepreneurial Mindset Key Indicator Model
Employer Entrepreneurial Mindset Key Indicator Model
Student Key Indicators

Student Co-op Entrepreneurial Mindset Key Indicators

How do you observe a mindset? "You know it when you see it," is a common response, but how do we make this less subjective and more objective, particularly in terms of actions, skills, or behaviors while a student is at co-op? How can co-op supervisors report back if their student has demonstrated the entrepreneurial mindset? The Student Entrepreneurial Mindset Key Indicators answer these questions!
Employer Key Indicator

Employer Co-op Entrepreneurial Mindset Key Indicators

How do we make observing a mindset less subjective and more objective, particularly through mentoring, supervision, and opportunities provided during a co-op experience? How can students and universities predict or identify if a co-op experience might foster a student's entrepreneurial mindset? The Employer Entrepreneurial Mindset Key Indicators answer these questions!

Living the entrepreneurial mindset through co-ops

Do you believe we can change industry, students' outlook and career path, and ultimately have a transformative effect on the world? In this #KEENTalk, Katherine explains how through just a few simple steps, co-ops can be purposeful in infusing the entrepreneurial mindset to do just that.


Meet the Author

Katherine Atkinson

Katherine Atkinson, Entrepreneurial Minded Co-op Project Manager, Marquette University

Katherine leads efforts in assisting industry partners to strategically and meaningfully connect with Opus College of Engineering students in a myriad of ways.

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