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Millennial African American Entrepreneurs: Developing Appropriate Campus Learning Strategies

November 17-18, 2006
University of the Sacred Heart and the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Thomas W. Garsombke, Associate Professor of Marketing and Management, School of Business, Claflin University
Gwen Hanks, Assistant Professor of Marketing, School of Business, Claflin University

Diane J. Prince, Professor of Management, Troy University, Augusta, Georgia

Mario J. Zaino, Assistant Professor of Marketing, School of Business, Claflin University


Dr. Thomas W. Garsombke and Professor Gwen Hanks described Claflin University, the School of Business; and demographics and psychographics of the undergraduate students majoring in Business, Management, Marketing, and Accounting. They stated that the institution is the oldest HBCU (Historically Black College or University) in the state of South Carolina, was the first college in the state to admit all students regardless of race or gender, is an independent liberal arts school with about sixteen hundred students, and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Two major principles of the institution are a commitment to excellence in education and a commitment to valuing people. Additionally, they stated that the majority of students are African American (approximately ninety three percent), that most come from small high schools in rural South Carolina, that many are first generation college students, and that most students are taking degrees in areas where they can develop professionally, while maintaining their African American heritage and culture.

The presenters stated that Claflin’s business students hold most of the attitudes, values, behaviors, and characteristics of the millennial generation, and that the presentation and material, due to time constraints, would focus on those elements of their students that were predominate and the topic of the research - developing strategies to maximize and optimize the learning environment and processes for business students studying entrepreneurship and small business management. Additionally, the presenters wanted to actively engage the audience, mostly teachers, who they believe would add new strategies, ideas and current practices to the authors’ presentation material.

“Early indications suggest that the Millennial Generation has a strong orientation toward entrepreneurship. They feel confident that they can achieve great results – as least earn a satisfactory living – by going into business for themselves. This population is showing itself to be a self-aware, astute, creative, and comfortable taking the risks involved with businesses.”1

This individuality and uniqueness of the Millennial Student is manifest in most undergraduate African American Entrepreneur Students at Claflin University, both business and non business majors. And while the traits that make most entrepreneurs successful in their new business and product development are necessary perquisites, these same traits make the undergraduate millennial business and non business majors more challenging for the instructor in his/her role in defining, constructing and delivering appropriate and effective learning strategies.

An initial review of the current literature failed to provide specific or conclusive data dealing with Millennial African American students and minority entrepreneurs. There was almost no research specifically dealing with the development of appropriate strategies focusing on across campus processes (involving business majors and non business majors) that both enhance the creativity component and the self-discipline component needed by these students to meet and overcome the many challenges in starting a new business venture. While there is a small growing amount of information on minority business ownership and entrepreneurship, there is almost no research and current literature on the Millennial African American Entrepreneur Student learning process.

The goal of this research is to bring together past learning strategies (both theoretical and applied) and future constructs that can effectively bring about a symbiotic relationship between two of the most necessary traits (creativity and self discipline) needed by young Millennial Entrepreneurs in developing new business and product/service ventures. These strategies and implications are based on the characteristics, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors that have been researched and written on in many academic and professional sources. It is not the intent of the authors, due to space limitations, to rewrite and describe that which has been presented in many viable and reputable writings. Millennial characteristics, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors have been chosen and used that are specific for the topic of entrepreneurship.

Millennial Traits or Research Findings (MT), and Teaching Strategies/Implications (TS/I)

MT - Very digitally involved, i.e. computers, video cameras.
TS/I - Use digital equipment in classes, i.e. have student make videos, films, video presentations, use voice recognition software for students to speak rather than write.

MT - Students are more diverse and seek interaction with others of different cultures.
TS/I - Have students do group work projects, group exercises with diverse groupings

MT - Millennials have high moral standards and beliefs/attitudes on most issues.
TS/I - Teachers should be aware of strong values and provide students with opportunities to voice them. If possible, provide debates on key issues facing students.

MT - Millennial students learn quickly.
TS/I - Use latest trends, new ideas from various news media and discuss direct impact to students. Don’t elaborate on theory, use 1 or 2 examples and move on.

MT - Millennial students have shorter attention spans.
TS/I - Don’t use long lectures, break classes into experiential learning situations. Don’t elaborate on theory, use 1 or 2 examples and move on.

MT - Millennials are more dependent and seek a structured and secured environment.
TS/I - Provide more detailed directions, guidelines, policies, for projects and work; provide past examples of quality work. Be prepared to provide more guidance and support.

MT - Millennials are more self-assured, stressed and more focused on one project. They are developing multi-tasking abilities.
TS/I - Treat students with the attitude that they are better achievers. Don’t overload number of assignments, use one or two projects as a time.

MT - Millennials show respect for social mores.
TS/I - Teachers need to treat students with adult-type respect, avoiding incidence of students criticizing others.

MT - Millennials have a high need for achievement.
TS/I - Set high, but realistic and achievable goals, showing students when they reach them.

MT - Millennials seek satisfaction in addition to monetary rewards.
TS/I - Show students how class materials and topics are key to self-satisfaction, while helping others or not injuring other people.

MT - Millennials have strong concerns about the environment.
TS/I - Integrate class topics and subjects with environment, if possible, showing linkages.

MT - The internet is very integrated into the professional and social lives of millennials.
TS/I - Use internet for testing (if possible), communicating with students, providing class materials and notices, develop relationships with students by communicating via internet, use Blackboard or similar software, ask students to e-mail you their questions, which they might not ask in class.

MT - Millennials’ Interpersonal abilities and social interactions need development.
TS/I - Provide structure and multiple short termed group projects.

MT - Millennials show a strong desire to achieve, show growth, and learn experientially.
TS/I - Give constant feedback on work and use projects if possible. Use group projects, have students present material in class, have field projects, i.e. business site visits, interviews, speakers.

MT - Millennial students seek immediate communication, feedback, and gratification.
TS/I - Give weekly, if possible, feedback on work, tests, projects, via e-mail. Use many quizzes, tests, and grade immediately.

MT - Millennial students are very brand-oriented consumers.
TS/I - Use internationally or nationally known materials. Give information to show that material and authors are globally-recognized leaders.

Summarizing Statement and Theory for Future Thought
Strategies and processes that have been used in undergraduate entrepreneurship programs, with both business and non-business students, were presented, as well as new ideas that can foster the creativity of undergraduate students while enhancing their self-discipline. This dichotomy between creativity and self-discipline that the Millennial Student holds, offers the current and future teachers of entrepreneurship studies challenges that can stimulate the formation of new learning modes, while enhancing the development of business ownership for the Millennial African American undergraduate student. While the authors recommended strategies and teaching methods with the African American students from Claflin (an HBCU) in mind, the implications should easily generalize to all Millennial Students.

Bell, Thomas, “The Millennial Student”, The Commerce Bulletin, retrieved on January 9, 2007, October, 2006.

Celente, Gerald, Trends 2000, NY: Warner Books, 1998.

Cornwall, Jeff, “The Entrepreneurial Generation at Work”, The Entrepreneurial Mind, August, 2005,

Cunningham, Michael, “Observation Beyond the Lecture: New Learning Models Require New Evaluation Methods”, The Teaching Professor, Vol. 15, No. 5, May, 2001.

1 Herman, Roger and Gioia, Joyce, “Young Entrepreneurs Drain Labor Pool”, Strategic Business Futurists, August 24, 2005,

Howe, Neil and Strauss, William, Millennials Rising: The Next Generation, NY: Vintage Books, 2000.

Newton, F. B., “The New Student”, About Campus, Vol. 5, No. 5, Nov./Dec. 2000, pp. 6-15.

Phalen, Kathleen, “Self Assured, Stressed and Straight: Millennial Students and How they Got That Way”  Vol. 11, No. 2, University of Virginia. retrieved on January 9, 2007 at www., Fall, 2002

Walker, Illy, “Discovering the Millennial Student”, The News About Teaching and Learning at Memorial, Vol. 5, No. 2, Winter, 2002, pp. 2-3.

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