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University of Pittsburgh

October 28, 2010

Senate plenary: Social entrepreneurship

Keynote speaker Rory A. Cooper, distinguished professor and chair in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, addressed the University Senate’s plenary session on social entrepreneurship efforts at Pitt. Cooper spoke on “Forging New Freedoms for People With Disabilities.”

Keynote speaker Rory A. Cooper, distinguished professor and chair in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, addressed the University Senate’s plenary session on social entrepreneurship efforts at Pitt. Cooper spoke on “Forging New Freedoms for People With Disabilities.”

Social entrepreneurs combine research, knowledge and a passion for change to make an impact on the world around them. They also are described as nontraditional thinkers who use business solutions to address a social problem or mission, according to Audrey J. Murrell, associate professor of business administration, psychology and public and international affairs, and director of the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership in the Katz Graduate School of Business.

“We know that social entrepreneurs really are individuals who are not just fueled by the desire for innovation, but for a particular kind of innovation, innovation that creates change, that engages people, that restarts, rebuilds and advances communities,” said Murrell at this week’s University Senate plenary session.

“And social entrepreneurship is also in the academic world a valuable tool for learning, for development, and a great laboratory to test ideas, test theories, test the knowledge we’re developing here as faculty across the campuses of the University,” said Murrell, who coordinated the Oct. 26 plenary session titled, “Social Entrepreneurship at Pitt: Innovators, Change-Makers and Local Heroes.”

“My goal is very simple — not only to expose you to the various ways that social entrepreneurship lives and breathes across the campus but to also produce in you the fire for innovation that has a true social impact,” said Murrell.

Audrey J. Murrell

Audrey J. Murrell

The plenary session featured a student presentation and a keynote speaker, followed by a panel discussion of Pitt faculty members from various schools. Provost Patricia Beeson offered closing remarks.

Building on his personal motto that adversity creates opportunity, one of the world’s foremost authorities on wheelchair design discussed ways in which disabled people can become fully integrated into society.

Rory A. Cooper, distinguished professor and chair in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s plenary session, speaking on “Forging New Freedoms for People With Disabilities.”

A decorated U.S. Army veteran, Cooper uses a wheelchair as a result of a spinal cord injury sustained during military service.

He began with a history lesson about how Howard Rusk, considered the father of rehabilitation science, changed military policy after World War II regarding wounded soldiers.

Instead of discharging such soldiers and leaving them to fend for themselves, Cooper said, Rusk, who founded the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in 1950, strongly encouraged the military to keep wounded soldiers on active duty, to retrain them and help make them productive members of society before discharge.

“That concept is one of the things that helped the Greatest Generation to have very high employment among their veterans with disabilities,” he said. The current generation has not been nearly as successful in the post-service employment sector, he added.

In his talk, Cooper mostly focused on his own story and what he’s learned from life.

“I’m an engineer,” Cooper told a packed house in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room. “The social entrepreneurial aspect of what I do is to promote opportunities for people with disabilities, to get people to change their perceptions about people with disabilities and to encourage other people, students particularly, to go out and carry that message,” he said.

“I’m not just a faculty member; there are a whole range of facets to my life. That’s a problem that a lot of disabled people face: They get pigeonholed: ‘He’s in a wheelchair’ and there are perceptions of what that means. I have a family. I’m married. I like to swim.”

Regarding perceptions, he recounted an anecdote of a would-be do-gooder who approached him at a VA event, mistook him for an unemployed vet and offered to buy him lunch.

The more the two conversed, the more their roles changed, Cooper said. “He found out I was a college professor with a PhD in electrical engineering. I ended up giving him advice on his family problems, and buying him lunch. Everything is not what it appears. That’s what we try to teach people,” Cooper said.

“In the Army, I was in an elite athlete program: I ran the 5,000 and 10,000 meter events and I qualified for the Olympic trials in 1980 in the 5,000 meters. I was injured a few months later,” he recounted.

“So running was a big part of my life and it’s actually what motivated me to start building wheelchairs. I wanted to achieve that feeling you get when you go fast. I didn’t want to be bound by the wheelchair, but actually have it be liberating. So I started to build my own wheelchairs so I could compete.”

And compete he has, in 25 Veterans Wheelchair Games, winning four gold medals in the 2008 games.

Plenary session keynote speaker Rory Cooper.

Plenary session keynote speaker Rory Cooper.

But, Cooper acknowledged, he had a great deal of help along his career path. It was a disabled Army officer who convinced him to go to college. “You’ll hear a lot of women and minorities say how important role models are. And this is true for people with disabilities as well,” he said.

When he first applied to college, eventually enrolling in California Polytechnic State University, it was before passage of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Nonetheless, well-meaning faculty at his university wanted to accommodate his disability, but Cooper initially balked. “I was a bit brash and I said, ‘I don’t like that idea, because I’ll never get a job. I won’t be an engineer like the other students graduating from this program.’”

It was then the insight struck one of Cooper’s teachers: This really was an engineering problem. “My teacher said, ‘We just need to figure out how to modify the environment to be compatible to Rory,’ and he worked every semester to modify the environment for me and he did that for others as well,” Cooper said.

He said that has been a driving principle — to modify the environment, rather than exclude the disabled.

Later a faculty mentor convinced him to go into bioengineering and rehabilitation science. “He told me, ‘Because if someone like you won’t do it, why should I do it?’ Before that I didn’t realize it was a career option,” Cooper said.

“Most colleges, even Pitt when I first came here in 1993, had a long-term plan for making their programs accessible. Those plans first talked about physical accessibility and then about testing accessibility. It took years, two decades I would say, before the plans began to talk about curriculum issues,” and how the curriculum should be inclusive for all students, he said.

“It takes a community.”

“You have to have critical mass to change anything. If you’re there just by yourself, it’s a lot harder to make progress. Once you get more people involved, once they buy into the concept, they start carrying the message and things start to take off. So it takes a whole team,” Cooper told the plenary session audience. “Our department has really bought into the concept of promoting careers and increasing opportunities for people with disabilities.”

A quarter of the department’s faculty and staff are people with disabilities themselves, as are more than 15 percent of their students, Cooper noted.

Funding also is important, both for research and clinical support.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that funds the Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center, a joint effort of Pitt and Carnegie Mellon that Cooper co-directs, provides funding for research and for tracking its impact in the clinical setting.

“NSF brought in an educational development team. They got us working with the School of Education, which I hadn’t done before. I learned there’s a whole science of tracking outcomes, tracking impact, that’s really helped us measure what we’re doing and think about what we’re doing,” Cooper noted.

He learned a few PR tricks as well, he said. “I learned from NSF if you mention the word ‘robot’ you automatically get a lot of attention from the media. If I’d have known that, I would have started calling wheelchairs robots in the 1980s,” Cooper said.

The personal mobility manipulation robot that he designed was featured in a recent issue of Popular Science as among the 10 robots one would be most likely to find in the home.

“The best thing about that [feature] is a lot more people, including teenagers, read Popular Science than the Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation,” Cooper said. Readers see the connection between robotics and helping people with disabilities and older adults, he said.

“Young people are interested in how to figure out how to help people. I think that’s why bioengineering is one of our most popular majors here at the University and that’s true of rehabilitation science.”

Those majors are attracting women and minorities as well as men, he added, “because you’re seeing the social and technological aspects combined. We try to take advantage of that in our department.”

Searching for a cure

“There’s always been this misnomer about searching for a cure. I’m not opposed to that, and as a matter of fact at Paralyzed Veterans of America we do research in that as well,” said Cooper, who serves as Paralyzed Veterans of America Chair.

But the irony is that as science advances in treating diseases, the numbers of people categorized as disabled grow, he said.

“As an example, my own injury, a spinal cord injury, was fatal up until World War II. Now it is considered a chronic condition, with people reaching near-normal life spans,” Cooper said.

Similarly, multiple sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and AIDS have changed from being considered fatal diseases to being labeled chronic diseases.

“People ask me, ‘Won’t a cure put you out of business?’ Well, so far, every cure has created more business for me,” Cooper said.

He noted the rise in disability rates is higher in industrialized countries than in developing nations, although the data are skewed by the fact that people in developed countries have longer life expectancies, and disabilities increase as the population ages.

Cooper chastised the U.S. government, as well as the University community, for insufficient efforts to employ the disabled.

“About 20 percent of Americans in the working-age population have some sort of disability that affects a major part of their life. I’d like to point out that that’s not reflected in our faculty and staff and that’s something we need to work on in our society,” Cooper said.

Only 0.88 percent of federal employees are disabled, even though the federal government has been required to have affirmative action plans for people with disabilities since 1973, he noted.

“If 20 percent of working-age adults have a disability, why is it they are only 0.88 percent of the workforce?”

This fact led President Obama recently to sign an executive order requiring all federal agencies “to create a plan on how they’re going to improve those numbers to a ‘whopping’ 5 percent within the next five years,” Cooper said. He added that he helped convince Allegheny County leaders also to set a 5 percent goal for employment of people with disabilities in county jobs and in the city of Pittsburgh. Cooper chairs the committee charged with developing the county-wide plan.

Models of disability

SHRS offers a disabilities studies certificate, which attempts to move the model of disability from a medical one to a social integration one, Cooper noted.

“When you think about changing people’s perceptions from a medical model — you think that I’m a person who is sick, that we need a cure — moving to a social integration model where disability is merely part of the society, we need to make adaptations both in our attitudes and in our physical, our electronic and our communications environments to incorporate people with disabilities into those environments,” he said.

“Instead of looking at disabilities as impairments and functional limitations, the key concept is that disability is the interaction of the environment, an individual and other individuals in society. By changing any one of those three pieces, we can reduce disability,” Cooper said.

“So we don’t need to be cured or fixed. Disability has always been part of our culture. We can change, we can make accommodations and we can change people’s attitudes.”

The 1990 ADA and beyond

“The ADA was landmark legislation. We hope that it will be so engrained in American society we don’t really need it any more. We’re not to that point yet,” Cooper said.

“But it has really helped. In my case, it’s helped promote my professional career, by letting me have a career that spans the nation and across the world. Simple things we don’t think about have helped me, like having rental cars with hand controls, accessible hotel rooms, ramps into building. But the attitudinal barriers are the toughest to break,” he said.

U.S.A. Swimming, the national governing body of competitive swimming, four years ago decided to open all swimming competitions to everybody, including disabled swimmers, Cooper noted.

“It changed people’s attitudes. When you swim side by side you get to know each other, and one of the best ways to learn about people with disabilities is get to know someone with a disability,” he said.

“We need to figure out how to create a community of people with and without disabilities to live together. Essentially, you have to create a culture of acceptance, that disability is not something unusual or something special, it’s just part of the society. How do we work together, what do we need to let everybody succeed? We start by making all of our activities and events be fully inclusive.”

—Peter Hart

Panelists, from left, Max Miller, Laura Atkinson Schaefer and Ann Dugan.

Panelists, from left, Max Miller, Laura Atkinson Schaefer and Ann Dugan.

As part of the Senate’s plenary session, School of Social Work faculty member and continuing education director Tracy Soska moderated a panel discussion, posing questions to Max F. Miller, director of the law school’s Innovation Practice Institute; Laura Atkinson Schaefer, deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, and Ann Dugan, assistant dean and director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship Excellence in the graduate and undergraduate schools of business.

What constitutes social entrepreneurship?

Dugan said, “I view entrepreneurs as those who see an opportunity, are able to garner resources and take advantage of that opportunity to create something that wasn’t there before, or improve upon something that was there. Social entrepreneurship, in my mind, is not anything different. It’s just what is the outcome and how is it going to be measured? I really look at it as just another important form of entrepreneurial behavior,” she said.

Schaefer said engineers often are stereotyped as money-motivated Dilberts, but many of her colleagues and students went into engineering because they want to make a difference in the world and found their knowledge of science and technology to be the key to achieving that goal.

Some ultimately may pursue more traditionally lucrative engineering positions, but the entrepreneurs often end up making money as well, even though their motivation was to make a positive change, she said.

Miller agreed, adding that the social entrepreneurs he’s known have their fingers on the pulse of a societal need. “They engage in that pulse-taking by attracting resources to it.”

There can be a stigma that sometimes prevents social ventures from attracting human and financial capital and resources, he said. “But I think the good social entrepreneurs identify need that’s societal, but that they can actually create an infrastructure around that capital markets and others will react to.”

What are the challenges in differentiating entrepreneurship as a social enterprise from a business enterprise?

One challenging dynamic, Miller noted, is that social entrepreneurship often starts with an individual whereas other sorts of entrepreneurial ventures usually are grounded in a team. “It’s intriguing that you have some people who have a real passion around an issue or need — it’s one person usually — and then you have to build people around it,” he said. “How do you scale passion?” he asked. “If there’s one person who’s passionate about a matter, how do you build something around it that’s going to make it big?”

Schaefer agreed, adding that typically it’s easier to get investors interested in a technology or tangible product that has visible results. In contrast, with social entrepreneurship, it’s often the charisma, enthusiasm and drive of the entrepreneur that gets the enterprise off the ground, she said.

Dugan said social entrepreneurship sprung from successful businesspeople. “You had a lot of individuals, successful entrepreneurs in many cases who had sold other businesses and had great wealth and created foundations and other kinds of activities that morphed into this idea of social entrepreneurship,” she said. “Part of it was very well meaning, aiming to make nonprofits efficient and deliver what markets want and move toward appropriately pricing products and services. They found that just doesn’t work when your customer base looks a lot different than a customer who buys a product or service from another type of entrepreneurial venture.”

In the nonprofit field today, there’s debate about how social entrepreneurship really works, both in competing with the private sector for nonprofit dollars and in serving people who may have deep disadvantages, she said. “I think the whole field of social entrepreneurship is moving forward in trying to create the balance between the two business activities,” Dugan added.

How to define and evaluate success in social ventures?

Schaefer said environmental impact is the one main tenet of sustainability that’s well known, but sustainability also involves promoting social equity and delivering products or services economically. “It’s the economically feasible fashion that people tend to fix on because a dollar is something you can very easily look at in the plus or minus column.”

Dugan cited management consultant Peter Drucker’s tenet that a nonprofit’s mission is to improve lives. In such circles, while some numbers may be necessary to fulfill grant requirements or count constituents, “Metrics are usually not hardcore numbers,” she said. “In general it has to be a much more qualitative review of how we improve lives by what we’re doing in social entrepreneurship.”

What are the challenges?

Dugan said there are many passionate, well-meaning people who want others to buy into their vision. But the question comes down to who will pay for it. In a time of increasing competition for government, foundation and philanthropic dollars, “It becomes a smaller and smaller pie with larger and larger needs,” she said.

“Many nonprofits lost their way from their mission because they ended up with big buildings and lots of overhead and infrastructure that they had to spend a lot of their time raising money for. All of a sudden repairing the roof or the air conditioner became more important than their mission,” Dugan said.

She noted there are many needs and many good ideas, but a constant struggle as to who will fund them.

Schaefer agreed that money can be a big factor, not only in sustaining an enterprise, but in getting the capital to move it forward at the outset. “If you’re interested in starting a for-profit business, there are plenty of roadmaps out there. There are shelves after shelves of books in the library about how to start a business, there’s accounting, there are venture capital fairs, there are avenues for people to pursue. If you’re interested in starting a business where the goal is not to profit but the good that you can do society, it’s much harder to make those initial contacts to start up that type of enterprise.”

There’s also the question of familial and societal support. “Is what you’re doing something that your family, your society values? Is it something you’re going to get support from your immediate network for pursuing?” she asked.

Miller said he sees a shift in the student mindset toward wanting to find where doing good and making money intersect. “Therein lies the challenge: to make what they’re doing relevant,” he said.

“Relevance is the challenge.”

Is the movement growing on campus?

Schaefer said she definitely sees this movement growing within the University. Citing a recent New Yorker piece by Malcolm Gladwell about the shift between capital and talent, she said today it’s expected that talent such as ball players or CEOs will receive exorbitant salaries. “But even 50 years ago it wasn’t that way. People were paid more modest salaries and it was assumed that the capital had everyone’s best interest at heart and the talent couldn’t ask for what it really deserved,” she said.

“The problem with the capital being in charge was there was a sort of paternalism in the system. But the problem we see now with the talent being in charge is that there’s greed in the system,” Schaefer said.

Do we just move toward ever-increasing greed or is there a shift beyond this? Gladwell asked. Demanding appropriate compensation doesn’t just apply to a monetary point of view, Schaefer said. “People realize they have a societal obligation. Pursuing the societal obligation may be the next shift we see among this talent pool. I think the young people, among the students, is where we first see this shift occurring. I certainly see it in my own students.”

Miller added that college is the place where students — especially those considering entrepreneurship — begin to figure out who they are and where they fit in. “Universities are all recognizing experiential learning. … Now it’s a matter of who executes it best and who makes it part of their culture.

“That’s clearly happening here,” he said, adding that that collaboration between schools and an aggregation of intellectual capital that occurs with such cooperation “is where one of the big opportunities is for a university.”

Dugan said she’s seeing a rebirth of the 1960s “question everything” attitude. “We’ve had some massive failures in things we thought were going to be there when we needed them,” she said, citing FEMA in Hurricane Katrina or the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “The agencies and the things we thought government was doing to protect us weren’t really up to par.”

Such turmoil presents a time of opportunity, she said. Students see that jobs aren’t plentiful and ask how they can deploy their passions and interests in making the current systems better. “A lot of the students I see who are interested in social entrepreneurship are looking at government, looking at the other nonprofits and saying, ‘You know they’ve been working at this for 20 or 30 years and it’s intractable, and nothing’s happening. Let’s take a look at it in a new way,’” Dugan said. “I think that’s part of the beauty of being in the University environment. This is the time to start to think about these things and do these things in a new way.”

What roles and responsibilities should the University have in promoting social entrepreneurship?

Dugan said the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence and similar organizations are important in that they provide experiential learning outside the classroom to help students consider the areas in which their new ideas can make a difference. “I think encouraging students to think in different ways … is an important part of their classroom experience.”

Miller said cross-disciplinary activities benefit students. He also noted that in addition to nuts-and-bolts curricular elements, the law school aims to equip its students with the ability to survey a landscape to recognize areas of opportunity. “It’s a competitive job market. I tell students all the time that the quarterback always throws to the spot where the receiver’s going to be. … The receiver goes to the open spot, not to the crowded spot. The marketplace is the same way. The only way you know where it’s not crowded is to have spent some time being a student of a particular market.”

Schaefer agreed that it’s important to educate students about market opportunities. “It’s also important to provide mentorship to the students that there are alternate options for them.” Engineering’s co-op and career services programs are dominant in the school, but she also sees growth in less traditional paths — product innovation classes and the use of affiliated facilities, for instance. Groups such as Engineers for a Sustainable World and Engineers Without Borders provide support for students who want to pursue social goals, and she sees faculty mentoring students in pursuing outside funding opportunities to support their entrepreneurial ideas.

“Faculty and administration have to play a very active role in letting students know about these opportunities,” she said.

Are there conflict-of-interest risks in public-private partnerships?

Miller noted that new legal entities such as the L3C (low-profit limited liability company) are emerging in response to the need for a business entity that bridges for-profit and non-profit structures. (L3Cs run like regular businesses, but their main goal is a social benefit rather than profit.)

As to the question of public and private dollars combining, “Is it really a conflict or is it really a matter of how you allocate and manage the funds so that everybody’s clear where it’s coming from and that you can track, and that the mission is still the same?

“People are starting to realize there are these huge societal benefits but there’s also a very big financial upside for somebody who invests in infrastructure,” he said.

“You’re going to see the attraction of capital that’s coming from both directions. The legal structures haven’t quite caught up with it but I think that people’s mindsets are starting to wrap around that there’s going to be a line that’s blurring.”

Schaefer agreed, “There’s a lot of catching up we still need to do.” Accrediting organizations require engineering schools to include an ethical component for students, but fulfilling that remains very traditional: “Don’t build a bridge that will fall down, that type of thing,” she said. “We don’t really talk about the emerging issues and how that interaction between societal benefits and profit and political issues all interact together. But that’s something that students are going to encounter very soon after they graduate in a lot of cases. I think we need to do a better job in addressing that.”

How can faculty and student work in this area be encouraged?

Regarding faculty work, Schaefer said, “I don’t think there’s really recognition or a reward structure in place for faculty who pursue societally responsible ventures. If you look at how faculty are evaluated for tenure, for advancement to full professor, to getting a chair position, it’s still a very traditional evaluation of papers, funding and students produced.” Some entrepreneurial aspects, such as patents, are considered, as is service, she said. “But a lot of faculty who pursue these social ventures are doing so strictly on their own time, knowing that they’re taking a risk in decreasing their productivity in areas the University values.”

The cascading effect is that they’re also teaching the students what is and isn’t valued, Schaefer said. “If you have more of a recognition or metric in place — if something that matters for your annual evaluation, for the way you get a raise … is how you’re impacting society, how you’re impacting your community, then I would think we’d see more of a propagation of those types of goals in the University.”

Dugan said faculty are the thought leaders for the students entrusted to them and it’s vital to have faculty champion such activities on campus. Adding incentives would make faculty more willing, she agreed.

Miller cited interest in elder law and health law as evidence there is interest in the law school for addressing societal concerns and serving underserved people. “We’re doing a lot of it already. The notion of preserving justice in certain communities has always been prevalent at the school,” he said.

“What we can work on, when we start shifting toward entrepreneurship in a business sense, is in having scholarship that is in the area.” The law school has some top scholars. “It’s just a matter of showing that we’re thought leaders,” he said, adding that students can help think through new issues such as the relevance of privacy in an era of social media or issues of intellectual property rights. “How should we be shaping people’s thinking about that?”

What rewards might drive scholarship in this area?

“The reward for students is tenfold for the experience while they’re here,” Dugan said, noting that opportunities such as the entrepreneurship dorm floor are popular.

“Entrepreneurship happens at the cusp of disciplines,” she said, adding that one difficulty is that students arrive lacking experience and knowledge. “Students really need to do things before they begin to write a business plan and start a business,” in addition to being educated in the classroom.

She noted that graduating students who worked with IEE got great jobs last year, despite the tough economy and stiff competition. “The reward for students is there if they reach out.”

For faculty, Schaefer said, “We need to teach people how to translate their social experiences and social ventures into rewards that are recognized in the current system. For example, how to take their outreach in the community and translate that into an article, engineering education or engineering application that could help their publication record. To bring the lessons from that community outreach into the classroom, which will also help inspire students as well. How to use the fact that they have a [platform for experiments] to gather more research funding for societal work,” she said.

“I think that it’s going to be very difficult to set up any sort of reward that directly relates to their volunteerism or their societal leadership,” but being able to help young faculty in particular learn to use their good work to help their career is a necessary step, she said.

In the broader view, Miller said, how we structure the supply chain impacts how the market views us: The University is supplying valuable intellectual capital to the marketplace and it needs “to make sure we’re the best supplier there is,” he said.

University Senate President Michael Pinsky said he sees a disconnect between the fact that universities by nature should be on the cutting edge and the traditional ways in which the institutions view education and promote faculty.

Junior faculty, he said, may be the biggest casualty. “They come to us with the ideas, with the innovations, with the idealism. And we don’t want to mug them too much with the concept of what it takes to get tenure because then they’re not going to be the mentors that they need to be.”

Pinsky noted that traditional jobs in which workers are guaranteed an income and a steady position are disappearing and that students may draw a greater feeling of success from doing things good for society rather than from pursuing a secure position with a large company.

“How can we optimize this social shift in the economy and in life’s expectations based on the way in which we address what we do for our faculty and for our educational programs for the students?” he asked.

Schaefer said, with regard to faculty assessment, that time will help overcome some of the issues. “A lot of the junior faculty who are coming in with innovative ideas and social responsibility still also know how to play the game to get tenure,” she said. “As they advance to the tenured stage, they begin to bring their own principles of recognition of what a good faculty member is in their evaluation of their junior colleagues.”

To speed the shift in values, “We need to look beyond what most universities are doing,” she said. “Stop being just traditional in our evaluations for tenure and promotion and recognize that putting more value on filing patents, putting more value on improving our communities, is something that the University should be in the business of doing and that faculty should be recognized for that.”

For students, Dugan said, being entrepreneurial as they enter the workforce will be critical, not only when interviewing but also in retaining a position in an atmosphere where womb-to-tomb jobs are no more.

Miller said one model being explored in the law school pairs professors with one or more adjuncts in the same practice area for co-teaching in order to expose students to real-world contexts for the subjects as well as to give students the chance to interact with experts practicing in the field.

Provost Patricia Beeson

Provost Patricia Beeson

Provost Patricia E. Beeson wrapped up the plenary session by touching on several things she learned during the presentations.

“One thing I didn’t know was really the scope of the different sorts of activities that happen not just at the University but out there in the community that one might consider to be social entrepreneurship.

“It’s not just doing good and it’s not just nonprofits — there’s a whole range of activities that fall under this large umbrella of social entrepreneurship,” Beeson said.

“I also didn’t know the many different ways in which our faculty and our staff and our students are using their knowledge, using their research skills and using their passion for a social issue to really make a positive difference in the world,” she said.

“What struck me was the way in which a social passion can really drive learning — which is what we do in a university. It, in the case of [entrepreneurial engineering student Micah Toll], drove him to learn more about the tools and techniques that he would need to build the green bicycle that he’s riding around campus and that he’s going to have us all on before long. And the way it drove Rory [Cooper] to make the wheelchairs and develop the educational programs and really send out a full enterprise around an issue that matters to him and that matters to all of us,” Beeson said.

Touching on an issue raised during the panel discussion about how to recognize and foster social entrepreneurship on campus, she said, “I think a lot of those questions about how do we reward it and how do we promote it at the University are ones that have to center on that issue: How do we take the passions that we have — be they social passions or other — and turn those into learning and research activities, which is what the University is so very good at doing.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature, Volume 43 Issue 5

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