The Business of Island Life
By Sara Karolak, AEL Intern
Barra, Scotland is more than a little off the beaten path. In fact, when taking a look at a map of Scotland, you will be hard pressed to pin point the tiny island at all. Situated far off the Western coast of the country, it boasts a population barely breaking 1200, a primary language of Gaelic and an economy that exists around a toffee factory, a dwindling fishing industry and a limited influx of tourists. While these may be the makings of small town island magic, it is not a recipe for a thriving economy, nor is it an easy place for islanders to launch and sustain their own businesses.
Enter Glenn Hoetker and the University of Illinois. As a 2008 Faculty Fellow with the Academy of Entrepreneurial Leadership and director of CIBER (the Center of International Business Education and Research), Hoetker has developed a strong connection to the island. This fall, along with Entrepreneurs Without Borders (EWOB), Hoetker will bring a group of graduate students from the University of Illinois to Barra to address the island’s entrepreneurial needs, namely the issues islanders face when working around policy drafted hundreds of miles away on the mainland.
“What they feel like is that there are policies being made in Edinburgh that they can’t navigate around,” says Hoetker. “We’re going to listen. We’ll learn what people are trying to do in Barra.”
Listening to the business needs of communities is at the center of what Hoetker hopes CIBER is able to do. “We focus on sustainability as part of a global business strategy and on the impact of globalization on entrepreneurship. We also look at the impact of law and public policy on business and foreign languages,” says Hoetker.
As one of 33 CIBER sites in the U.S., the University of Illinois organizes not just the trip to Barra, but also a program on entrepreneurship and innovation in Asia. Along with the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies, CIBER helps host lectures and fund events. Additionally, in cooperation with the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory, CIBER is launching a program to look at immigrant entrepreneurs in Chicago’s Latino and Latina communities.
“We know these entrepreneurs are in a great position to have a foot in two worlds,” Hoetker says. “Is the value they’re creating staying in that community or being used somewhere else? What could the non-profits in Chicago do to make it easier on them? What does their success look like?”
The differing pictures of success in places like Chicago, Asia and Barra, Scotland are what helps makes CIBER such a dynamic organization for students to be a part of. “I hope students understand that entrepreneurship exists all over the world, but plays out very differently depending on where you are,” says Hoetker.
Opportunities for students to take a more in depth look at global entrepreneurship are available through CIBER’s certificate in Global Business Culture, which is being expanded to include graduate students as well as undergraduates. Hoetker explains that the certificate requires student’s to gain fluency in a language, take business courses and courses related to their chosen language’s region, and complete an internship abroad.
“Ideally, students should understand that as the economy becomes more global, that shapes what it means to be an entrepreneur,” says Hoetker.
Hoetker’s has seen his own image of entrepreneurship change shape since his time with the academy. “I’ve always been very interested in where innovation and global competition come together,” Hoetker admits. “But my interests have certainly shifted more to the entrepreneurship side of things. The financial assistance the academy provides is certainly a wonderful thing, but it was never the real benefit for me.”
So what was the real benefit for Hoetker?
“The people,” he says matter-of-factly.
This benefit now stretches far beyond Central Illinois, touching communities that are not often accustom to receiving outside help. For places like Barra, Scotland, this could spell real change for their local economy.
“Our goal is to come back to Barra each year,” Hoetker says. “We hope to help the community shape a cohesive response and a way to move forward.”
Entrepreneurial course taught by Professor Hoetker
CAS 587, Science and Technology in the Pacific Century- The Role of Entrepreneurship
The course will provide graduate students from Colleges across campus in a survey of critical issues shaping the development of science and technology in the Pacific Century and the U.S. response. The course will also be open to attendance by faculty of any college. This application seeks support to develop a theme within the course on Technological Entrepreneurship in the Asia-Pacific. This theme reflects the increasingly important role played by entrepreneurs in bringing technology to market in Asia. Further, it encompasses the implications of increased Asian technological entrepreneurship on U.S. entrepreneurs, for whom Asia represents a growing market, a source of potential financial and scientific resources, and the home of new competitors.
Visit Course Catalog website for course availability
About Professor Hoetker