M.S.Ed. in Education Entrepreneurship marks 10th year and looks ahead

June 20, 2024
EdEnt Founding Director Jenny Zapf (far left), Penn GSE Dean Katharine Strunk (fourth from right), Associate Dean Susan Yoon (third from right), and six EdEnt program alum from five different cohorts pose in business casual attire in front of a blue Penn GSE banner

Educational Entrepreneurship alums from five cohorts pose with Dean Katharine Strunk at a GSE board meeting in October 2023. (Photo courtesy of Jenny Zapf)

This year, Penn GSE’s M.S.Ed in Education Entrepreneurship hit a major milestone: its 10th anniversary. To celebrate, Penn GSE is hosting a daylong event that showcases the program’s growth and success.

About 150 students, alumni, faculty, staff, and industry leaders are expected to gather on Saturday, June 22, for “EdEnt:10” at Penn GSE, with Dean Katharine Strunk delivering opening remarks.

Since its inception, “EdEnt”, as the program is known, has evolved from the nation’s first M.S.Ed in entrepreneurship to a global hub for educational innovation, noted Founding Director and Senior Fellow Jenny Zapf. That’s cause for celebration.

“We are excited to share the extraordinary talent, impact, and success that this community has achieved across 10 years,” Zapf said. “This is a wonderful occasion to bring together and celebrate our learners and leaders across the globe.”

EdEnt is a yearlong program committed to entrepreneurial innovation and leadership in education. Students enter with an existing venture and/or an idea for a new venture and leave with a developed business concept they can take to market. They engage with faculty from across Penn, including Penn GSE, the Wharton School, Weitzman School of Design, the School of Engineering, and other industry leaders. The program also offers a dual degree M.S.Ed./MBA track in conjunction with the Wharton School.

EdEnt is an “idea incubator and go-to-market accelerator combined with a rigorous Penn degree program,” Zapf explained. “We’re an academic home and test kitchen for innovative models that will lead the future of learning.”

Graduates have launched ventures worldwide, including new schools and institutions, programs, services, and products.

The program was originally conceived by Penn GSE's Dr. Barbara "Bobbi" Kurshan. She and Zapf started with an inaugural cohort (C1) of 21 students from the U.S. and focused primarily on pre-K–12 educational ventures. Fast-forward to 2024, the program has 350 alumni living in and working on education projects in 45 countries. Half of C10’s 48 students are international, representing countries from Kazakhstan to India and Malta. About 60% are people of color, 25% come from lower-income backgrounds, and a majority are women.

“We’ve made a real commitment to elevating and supporting underrepresented voices in education entrepreneurship and innovation,” Zapf said.

Additionally, students have expanded the scope of their projects to include adult education, international education, and professional development and training, often using edtech to scale new models and learning pathways. Over four semesters, students engage in eight intensive programs, including two weeklong boot camps. They concentrate on business areas like management, marketing, and finance; on an education core including teaching, curriculum, design, and learning; and on technology strategy, venture development, and acceleration.

While Penn GSE hosts most sessions on-site, Zapf looks for special opportunities to immerse students in real-world experiences. For example, every cohort has received scholarships to attend the leading summit for education entrepreneurs.

Each year, EdEnt culminates a year of discovery with a capstone project, where students develop a paper with reflections and valuable marketplace tools, such as a financial model and a pitch deck. So far, EdEnt students have created 400 capstone ventures.

Students pitch their ventures to peers and faculty, and five finalists advance to the final round. EdEnt is raising the stakes for this year’s competition. The C10 finalists will present their concepts to external judges and conference attendees at the 10th-anniversary celebration. This year’s winner will be awarded free business consulting services and a ticket to the premier education summit for global innovators.

Some past standout student ventures include:

  • Arcadia School
    Navin Valrani (GED ’18 and C5) was balancing two CEO roles — one at an engineering services firm and another at Arcadia School, an independent school in Dubai — when he enrolled in the program. Valrani had a bold vision: to scale Arcadia and launch additional schools that offer high-quality, affordable education.
    Zapf praised Valrani’s project as exemplary of entrepreneurial learning and leadership in education business.
    Valrani launched a second school, and Zapf and other alumni had the opportunity to experience Arcadia first-hand last year while in Dubai for a conference with EdEnt students and grads from India, Bahrain, Pakistan, UAE, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia.
  • EmpathED
    Kirsten Bronkovic (GED ’18 and C5) founded EmpathED, an ed-tech platform that leverages immersive experiences, including virtual reality, to train teachers working with students with disabilities, mental health diagnoses, and neurodiversity. EmpathED’s clients include K–12 schools, higher education institutions, and nonprofits.
  • NewComm
    Chidi Asoluka (GED ’22 and C8), a seasoned high school English teacher and administrator, launched NewComm, short for The New Community Project. This nonprofit, based in Harlem, New York, nurtures talented high schoolers from historically marginalized communities in leadership and supports their college prep. NewComm's fellows participate in community projects, leadership opportunities in the U.S. and abroad, and an innovative student-led think tank called Community Design Studios, which designs and launches community improvement projects.

In addition to the 10th anniversary pitch event, the conference will feature discussions and speakers reflecting on the program’s progress and prospects.

At the Alumni Panel: Seeding & Scaling Innovation, four graduates who have successfully launched ed innovation ventures will share their experiences.

The EdEnt Faculty Panel: Breakthrough Innovations in Education spotlights faculty members, including Penn GSE’s Susan Yoon, Wharton’s Gad Allon, and Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College Dean Stanton Wortham, who will join Penn GSE Senior Fellow and Innovation Advisor Bobbi Kurshan in reflecting on student innovations and educational models developed at EdEnt.

The conference will conclude with a keynote address by Laura Huang, management and organizational dynamics professor at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business and a former faculty member at Wharton and Harvard.

Zapf says she sees a great deal of promise in the work of this community.

“Our alumni leaders are building creative, impactful solutions to many of the most urgent issues confronting education, from the lack of access to high quality learning models, to impacts from teacher shortages, technology acceleration, and global conflicts.” She is excited to see EdEnt graduates continue to design, build, and lead the future of learning.

The program recently launched a direct giving program. Zapf says her greatest hope for this fund is to help support more underrepresented students access this unique education opportunity and realize their dreams to improve education futures for all.