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Faculty pains


Leticia Britos Cavagnaro

on 6 April 2017

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Transcript of Faculty pains

Operation: Faculty pains
My department needs me to fulfill "real" curricular needs
This will hurt my chances of getting tenure of promotion
I'm not qualified to teach entrepreneurship
I want to teach entrepreneurship to engineering students, but...
Entrepreneurship is a passing fad
There are other sexier and/or more important educational opportunities (
global, sustainability, energy, interdisciplinarity, ethics
Entrepreneurship is not a rigorous discipline
My teaching evaluations will suffer
My job is to get funded and further my research agenda
It's going to take too much time to prepare
I can't spell
impedence mismatch
Is not responsible to promote the entrepreneurship route for indebted students in a downturn economy
I fear that my colleagues in the Business School will think that I'm treading on their turf
By introducing one fun/sexy/soft topic into my class students won't be willing to work as hard on the boring/traditional/hardcore topics
I'm not an entrepreneur. How am I supposed to teach it?
publish on the website only some of the pain points, need to register to see rest
during registration as new user, folks answer 1-2 questions that *implicitely* categorize them and give them 2-3 relevant links/how-tos that apply to them (is this only for the first time? Or stays on their profile? It might be interesting to be able to implicitely track faculty through their use of resources, and have that be part of our assessment of faculty evolution in aggregate)

First, business has a rich tradition of thinking about many of the aspects of entrepreneurship but they often are siloed in different sub-disciplines. Entrepreneurship is a new interdisciplinary discipline for them. They also can easily lose the important aspects of design and manufacturing of a product. You have something to offer them, just as they have something to offer you.

Second, get them involved. Collaborate. Team teach if you can. Or simply offer to exchange guest lectures. Take them to lunch to pick their brain. Sit in on a class or audit one of their courses. Being genuinely interested, and keeping the focus on what the students will learn will help you overcome any initial negative perception they may have.

Third, after you have tried something, report back. Let them know that what they added was valuable and that you appreciate their help. Think of it as the beginning of a relationship. Ask more questions, learn more. And offer to share with them in return.
It is easy to become attached to a cause. And your passion is a key toward getting students to care about it too. Follow that passion as it will be your source of inspiration and creativity.

What is special about many of these causes is that they overlap; Interdisciplinary has undertones of the global mindset, energy and ethics can easily be discussed together. The same is true of entrepreneurship.

So, your cause does not need to be entrepreneurship, but entrepreneurship can add another dimension to your cause. It will also open your cause to a new group of students. The entrepreneurial mindset is all about how to transform an idea into real impact - a process that is invaluable regardless of the cause.
Think of a time when you did something with very little resources. This probably could describe many aspects of your life, from getting your last professional degree to parenting to cooking. Most especially every faculty member must live by this principle in designing and executing the courses as well as their research. Doing more with less is a basic human trait and also a grounding principle of the entrepreneurial mindset. In short, you are entrepreneurial, you just didn't know it!

This idea strikes at the difference between being an entrepreneur and learning the entrepreneurial mindset. If you have become a professor you have used many tools of this mindset. When you write a paper you think about your customers (sometimes called your audience). When you teach, you need to think about the value of what you are teaching (the value proposition).
It is true that students are graduating with more debt and having a harder time landing jobs that will help them pay off their debt in this down economy. But the entrepreneurial mind set will help them find a job, keep that job and excel - no matter what their path. It can be made clear that the goal is not to make budding entrepreneurs, but to give students a skill set that will help them in the future.

The real concern might be that teaching entrepreneurship may steer young and idealistic students to become entrepreneurs. But they have two of the biggest assets they can possibly have when they graduate- energy and time. They can keep up the pace that is needed to be an entrepreneur. They also can absorb risk at this time in their life.
Engineering education is filled with "necessary" topics that are difficult to teach and even more difficult for students to learn. First, entrepreneurship is one gateway to making those particularly tricky topics more digestible.

It is also important to take a step back and ask why those hard topics are taught in the first place - that is so they can be useful in other situations. And as all of the education literature says, the most abstract concepts are best introduced using concrete examples and experiences. Entrepreneurship can help here.

Lastly, motivation is nearly everything in a college classroom. Learning about heat cycles or the Fourier Transform will be tedious. Entrepreneurship can help keep students motivated to push through their struggles.
Rigor is not the making of an engineer - students are not being trained to be mathematicians or physicists. So, keep in mind that the rigor in an engineering curriculum is one tool that can be used to move forward in the design process. The tools of the entrepreneurship is another. When you put the two together, you will be teaching students all of the skills they will need to be outstanding engineers.
First, the entrepreneurial spirit and mindset has been a driver of the American economy for over 200 years - it is in our DNA. Second, the goal is not to turn engineering students into entrepreneurs, but to give them a set of tools that will help them be better engineers. We can break the 1950's stereotype of the engineer who is out of touch with the realities of the business world. Rather than try to teach the business world our language, we can learn theirs.
That is okay. Many entrepreneurs can't spel it either!
A big key to good teaching evaluations is being able to explain why. Why this material and not some other material? Why this way of teaching and not another? Why is this topic important? If you can be sure that students have answers to these questions, you can lead them in many directions and they will follow you.

These principles are no different in including entrepreneurship into your classes. In fact, the entrepreneural mindset can be part of the answer to some of these questions. Point out where the topic is important in a hot, up-and-coming company. Explain to them that they could do endless problem sets, but you have chosen a more inventive strategy for their learning.
This of course depends on the extent of what you plan to do in your class. If it is inventing an entire class on entrepreneurship from scratch, you may be right. But, there are many small things you can do that will inject bits of the entrepreneurial mindset into your classroom. Some of these might take as little as 2 minutes of prep and 5 minutes of class time. For example, if you are discussing heat transfer, ask your students to quickly develop the idea for a product that would make some aspect of life better. You can then prob a bit deeper by asking them to have a targeted customer demographic. This tactic will not take you much time, is fun for the students, connects the real world to the topics from your class and gets them thinking about how to extend the material - all well worth the small investment in time.
Think of a time that you have done well despite being given limited resources. Every faculty member has faced this challenge, whether that resource has been time, patience, money or attention. This is the heart of being an entrepreneur - doing more than you imagined possible with less than you thought possible. So, even if you are not an entrepreneur by societal definition, you have needed the entrepreneurial mindset to make it this far.

Think about those times again. Can you tell a story to your students? Is the moral of the story one of the tools in the entrepreneurial mindset? Congratulations! You are qualified after all.
This pain is one felt by nearly all faculty, and it boils down to the perception that there is just not enough time in a class or curriculum for anything extra. But entrepreneurship is not an extra, it can be a different (and very powerful) tactic in delivering content. It can provide a much needed context to the material in the curriculum.
First, getting funded for your research is an entrepreneurial activity. If you have an entrepreneurial mindset yourself you will get noticed and get funded.

Second, if you want your ideas to spread out of the academic literature and have an impact on the real world, at some point you will be confronting the business world. Knowing something about their language will help you navigate the translation of your research.

Third, many funding agencies will help your research program along if they see that you have the interest and ability to bring your research foundings to the real world.

Lastly, in thinking about your research program as an entrepreneur, you will naturally have great stories and examples that you can bring into your classroom.
You are right that becoming and entrepreneur (an all encompassing lifestyle) will most certainly hamper your ability to get tenure (also an all encompassing lifestyle). But you can experiment with injecting a bit of entrepreneurship into your classes and your research before tenure. See what works and what doesn't, amplify the things that do work, and stop doing the things that don't. That is part of the entrepreneurial mind set too!

You may also want to see the answers to many of the other pains - most especially the time to develop classroom activities and how your research can benefit from adopting and entrepreneurial mindset.
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