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Study camps increase students’ psychological capital


Tiina Brandt

yliopettaja / principal lecturer
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 20.03.2023

We all know the stories of teachers who have been very discouraging in someone’s future career. People remember those words all their life. Similarly, some teachers have had a positive impact by encouraging people so much that their whole future has changed because of those teachers. Similar happens later in life with “good” or “bad” leaders. There are studies that show that leaders’ own psychological capital has an impact on their team members’ psychological capital as well.

I had the possibility to participate and do research on the European Innovation Academy (EIA) camp in 2022 with the funding from Foundation for Economic Education. The research idea was to study if the EIA has an impact on students’ psychological capital.

The EIA camp is a three weeks program for international students which mostly come from European or US universities. The students form companies in international teams and the target is to get 300 customers during the three weeks. On the final day, the ten selected teams will pitch their ideas. Students participate in lectures by successful entrepreneurs on different topics. Some of the speakers and mentors come from Silicon Valley. The point is that students hear very informative as well as inspirational speeches daily, and they also have mentors who help them to build the company.

Psychological capital is a positive quality that describes person’s attitudes toward work. There are four dimensions: self-efficacy, optimism, hope and resilience. Psychological capital is not a permanent trait, it can be impacted. Self-efficacy means that a person believes their capabilities to accomplish even difficult tasks and also confidence to say their own opinions even when others might disagree. Optimism is a generally positive way of looking things, while hope means that a person has goals to aim and different paths to gain the goals. Resilience refers to recovering fast from disappointments and to not giving up. There is plenty of research of positive impact of psychological capital on employees’ well-being, career progress and even wage.

One hundred students responded to the questionnaire on psychological capital. They rated the list of items from -3 to +3 indicating if the camp decreased or increased this psychological capital item.

The results showed that all the aspects of the psychological capital were increased. Students thought that especially hope was increased. Resilience was the dimension which had the lowest increase (but still did increase). The lower increase in resilience might be because many students experienced the camp very demanding, long days to build the company and gain clients, with team members they did not know earlier. It would be interesting to send the questionnaire later, e.g. after one year, and then see what the results are – maybe the camp’s impact on resilience would be higher.

According to these results, the EIA enhances students’ psychological qualities aside from entrepreneurial knowledge. Indeed, psychological attitudes are important when willing to start one’s own business. It is a very demanding job, which needs a lot of persistence to do long days, solve the setbacks, gain customers, and negotiate with team members from different cultures. When there are clear goals (hope), the work is more systematic, and the focus and main purpose do not disappear. Self-esteem gives the strength to defend own ideas and negotiation and selling skills. An optimistic mindset is needed to keep the work atmosphere positive.

Most probably those students who applied and travelled to the EIA already had their psychological capital at a very high level, but interestingly, this experience still increased that. It would be interesting to study the psychological capital at the team level, whether the top ten teams would have higher psychological capital than others.