Twenty-two students from Mexico have completed an innovative internship program allowing them to hone their business skills while completing coursework that will prepare them to continue their studies at New Mexico State University.

The students participated in the Running Lean internship program at NMSU’s Arrowhead Center. The program introduced students to the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and technology commercialization during an eight-week interactive curriculum. The students also participated in English and GRE test preparation courses.

Each student recently earned an undergraduate degree in engineering from Instituto Tecnológico Nacional de México, which has campuses in a number of cities throughout Mexico. The students have all applied for admission into masters programs at NMSU.

Facilitator Estela Hartley, an Arrowhead Center Enterprise Adviser and Kauffman Fellow who specializes in design thinking, was a key team member who worked closely with the students throughout the program.

“Engineering students in the Running Lean Internship program learned a variety of innovation techniques being used by leading organizations around the world,” Hartley said. “The entrepreneurial skills and tools gained to design a new product development strategy and innovative business models will provide these engineers with great leverage throughout their careers.”

Students in the Running Lean Internship learned the process of moving a new product to the market. Students practiced talking to customers, business modeling and market research with a technology assigned to them by the program’s facilitators. Students also worked with experts in lean business launch, design thinking and intellectual property commercialization, and practiced their presentation skills through weekly “pitch sessions” where they discussed progress on their projects.

“The main topic we studied in this business course was the Lean Start-Up. It is a very useful tool when you have a product you want to sell, and when you have an idea about a business,” said student Orlando Robles Terrazas. “It changes everything because your potential customers give you feedback about your product, and then you know if your assumptions are true and you continue with your project or change something about it.”

While developing students’ entrepreneurial skills was a primary objective of the internship program, a larger goal was to help students in gaining acceptance to NMSU graduate programs. Students accepted to NMSU graduate programs are expected to begin their studies in spring and fall 2016, with many receiving financial assistance through CONACYT, or the National Council of Science and Technology, in Mexico. So far, one student has been fully admitted to NMSU to pursue a master’s degree in industrial engineering with a specialization in Public Utility Regulation and Economics.

The program is also intended to boost NMSU’s efforts in growing the binational entrepreneurial environment and facilitating binational relationships between educational institutions and industries on both sides of the border. Since this year’s program was so successful, it will be offered again in summer 2016. Nearly 300 students are expected to participate next year.