Faculty Retreat 2010
By Alyssa Schoeneman, AEL Intern
Entrepreneurship is more important today than ever before; most employers look for the entrepreneurial spirit, characterized by creativity, flexibility and a bit of aggressiveness, when they are making new hires.
This lesson was just one of many impressed upon the faculty fellows from the Urbana and Chicago campuses at May 9th’s Chicago retreat. Keynote speaker Lou Ennuso, CEO of Adeptia Inc., bestowed upon the fellows his pearls of entrepreneurial wisdom after a morning of more specialized breakout sessions led by faculty from both the Urbana and Chicago campuses. The morning’s first session featured presentations on social entrepreneurship with an international focus, entrepreneurship in green and clean technologies, and social media in the classroom; the second session offered talks on technology entrepreneurship, community and social entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship in the creative industries.
During coffee breaks and mealtimes, the fellows were able to do what they do best – network with and learn from one another. Always multitasking, the group took advantage of the social opportunities to share more about their individual areas of interest and to make potentially lifelong professional connections. Intellectual discussion filled the air at all times, facilitated by well-placed question and answer sessions following each presentation and by casual dining atmospheres.
The morning’s first session, Social Entrepreneurship with an International Focus, was led by Benet Deberry-Spence (Chicago campus) and John Clarke (Urbana campus). The pair spoke about working in international subsistence marketplaces and about how they work to reroute the traditional grade-focused student mindset. By sharing their own passions and by facilitating student interaction with the population for which the class is designing, Deberry-Spence and Clarke are laying the foundation for successful future business professionals.
“We’re trying to make this real, not just to build another grade-focused course,” Clarke said. “It’s about understanding the community where you are trying to place a product. It’s not about just designing a widget.”
Professor of Industrial Design Deana McDonagh from the Urbana campus agrees with Clarke about the importance of entrepreneurial thinking in college curriculum.
“I find that pushing students out of their comfort zones and showing them that their teachers give a damn about something makes them stop [being so grade-focused], “ she said. “They begin to see that education is a life-long investment. Taking them out of the United States becomes a transformative experience…and they learn to play nicely with other working professionals overseas.”
Deberry-Spence believes that an international focus shows students that there are ways to combine the ‘square peg’ teaching they are used to with something that is on the other side of the world; it shows them that they are doing something that actually makes a difference outside of the classroom.
And it is making a difference in the world that is of utmost importance to the Fellows; they plan their curriculum with this idea in mind.
“Accolades from peers and awards are great,” said faculty fellow William Patterson from the Urbana campus, “but how we transform the world is where the work ultimately lies.”
With such forward thinking in place, the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership fellows are pushing college curriculum as a whole in the right direction.