Extraordinary Customer Service: Entrepreneurial Catalysts

Extraordinary Customer Service: Entrepreneurial Catalysts

"Entrepreneurial catalysts are a component of EM integration at FSE beyond faculty, the ASU KEEN Team, and Academic and Student Affairs staff. Their primary goal is be an additional EM touchpoint for FSE students, and they not only advise on the EM approach, provide technical assistance, and create awareness but refer students to courses in which EM is integrated. "

- Layla Reitmeier, Project Manager,  ASU KEEN Team

Case at a glance

Integration goals

Create a student peer resource position that could promote EM and ASU resources to FSE students

Materials affected

Job description, training and meeting agendas, slide deck for class presentations, Entrepreneurial Catalysts (EC) polo shirts, and EC website

Lessons learned

It takes a special kind of student to be engaging in this position and penetrating such a large student body provides many challenges.


Entrepreneurial Catalysts (ECs) are current engineering students who serve as a peer resource. They demonstrate the power of students learning from students. The ECs advise on and facilitate the incorporation of the entrepreneurial mindset approach into curricular and co-curricular student design projects, provide technical assistance, and promote corresponding KEEN and Fulton Schools of Engineering (FSE) student opportunities and programming.

ASU students can connect with an EC to accomplish any of the following aims:

  • Incorporate the Entrepreneurial Mindset (EM) – curiosity, connections, and creating value—in their ideation process for class-based or student-led projects
  • Navigate various resources available to FSE students, especially related to entrepreneurship
  • Receive technical assistance and related advice on FSE makerspaces
  • Learn more about the KEEN student mini-grant opportunities available to all FSE students
  • Receive coaching on their application materials for KEEN student mini-grants and other EM-integrated programs
  • Learn about campus events and how to get involved at ASU

Similarly, ASU Faculty and staff can connect with an EC to accomplish any of the following aims:

  • Present to their class/department about EM, ASU resources and opportunities, and ways students can get involved on campus
  • Integrate EM into their course  curriculum 

Integration details

The EC student worker position was created as part of the Fulton Schools of Engineering's EM integration effort, focusing on stakeholder engagement. This peer-to-peer resource was modeled after a similar position under Entrepreneurship + Innovation at ASU called an Entrepreneurship Catalyst. This new position, however, had a specific focus on engineering students and catalyzing the concept of having the entrepreneurial mindset. The job description was created and potential candidates were brought in for interviews and hired based on their experiences and qualifications. The ECs were provided position orientation and meetings were created to share the vision of the duties/tasks as this was a new facet to the project.

The ECs were introduced to FSE Faculty and KEEN Professors during the KEEN Professorship Orientation and Kick-off Lunch, as well as at the KEEN Professorship Reflection and Analysis Retreat. They were also introduced to the Academic and Student Affairs (ASA) staff. An EC polo shirt was designed and created for the team for easy identification while they hold open hours in designated ASU makerspaces. 

Currently, there are five ECs across the engineering campuses: two undergraduate ECs at the Tempe Campus, one graduate EC at Tempe Campus, and two undergraduate ECs at the Polytechnic Campus. All ECs are listed in the FSE advising system calendar so that students can make one-on-one appointments with them. Flyers are used to promote their schedules and open hours, as well as the EC webpage. 

The ECs make the most impact through their efforts around already-established events as well as conducting classroom presentations. The events that they have appeared at or contributed to include the following:

  • Devils Invent: They have been volunteers, as well as facilitators for a skill session titled “The Art of the Elevator Pitch” at multiple DI events in the 2017 academic year.
  • FURI Symposiums and Innovation Showcases: They tabled during the entirety of these events to showcase KEEN student mini-grant opportunities and highlight EM/3Cs. 
  • EM101: They introduced themselves and explained their services to faculty and staff during the Entrepreneurial Mindset 101 presentation to KEEN Professors.
  • ASA Student Worker Training: They co-facilitated training to Academic and Student Affairs Student workers to review EM/3Cs and the EC position on campus.
  • From Thinking to Tinkering: A collaboration effort with GenKFD, the ECs covered how to use EM in the ideation and prototyping processes and ASU resources.
  • Various events related to mini-grant awardees: ECs raised awareness of their existence and services through AirDevils Glider Workshop, AirDevils Info Session, and the FSC Engineering Leadership Conference.
  • Various other programmatic events: EPICS Design Reviews, Live@ Gen Labs, eSeed Challenges--ECs have helped to integrate EM at all of these events.

ECs’ efforts to speak to classes have varied depending on the connections of others and referrals for speaking opportunities. These efforts have ranged from introductory engineering classes with more than 50 students to capstone classes of fewer than 15.

Currently, ASU’s KEEN Team coordinates bi-weekly meetings with all ECs across campuses to coordinate efforts and provide supervision of their on-campus efforts. Monthly All-Hands Trainings with the E+I Entrepreneurship Catalysts are also held jointly to discuss ASU resources, entrepreneurship opportunities, and 1-1 appointment coaching. 

NOTE: Supporting resources for this case study can be found within its companion KEEN card (link below), which is also where the community can discuss the case and its broader topic.

Integration outcomes

ASU is in the early stages of implementing a comprehensive program for evaluating the entire EM @ ASU initiative, and the work team that produced the framework and instrument for assessing student mindset, presented in the Impact Meter case study, is preparing reports based on the results of employing the instrument several times. Therefore, while quantitative results are not yet available, the general consensus based on qualitative feedback from students, faculty, staff, camp volunteers and other stakeholders is that the Entrepreneurial Catalyst position is changing the hearts and minds of students at ASU. They have been able to make many important connections with students, who have gone on to participate in EM programs such as Devils Invent, KEEN Student Mini-Grants and Research Grants, and Venture Devils.

Future plans

Currently, tactics for targeting larger class rooms for presentations are being implemented in the next semesters to see if this can make a significant different in promoting their services and expertise in embedding an entrepreneurial mindset to project design processes. They also continue to reach a growing number of students organizations. Additionally, in conjunction with the E+I EC team, a resource guide or index of ASU resources is planned to be made. This would allow the ECs to easily refer students to the programs and opportunities most appropriate to their ambitions, as well as a guide to ASU’s vast website.


The culture of ASU supports entrepreneurship, which is closely aligned with EM/3C's. FSE's efforts thus far in integrating EM into core and elective courses have assisted in these efforts and progress has been made in the first year of the grant on co-curricular EM integration. 

The position does not come without challenges. At a large institution such as ASU, ECs are such a small number (five) and FSE is so large (20,000+ students) that penetrating the student body in a meaningful way is the most difficult struggle. Similarly, you will need to determine how to onboard new students into the position and how to best equip them with the vast knowledge base that is required to be an effective peer resource. This process is best streamlined and managed with various resource materials, trainings, and meetings as mentioned above.

The EC position is best administered, coordinated and supervised through a dedicated team. And as is true for any new position, frequent communication with the ECs is key to providing support and helping them navigate resources. Flexibility is key, as feedback and insight from the ECs and the students they meet with can further influence their job duties.