Gary Vaughan at Lawrence University Interim Report
Last year’s and this year’s Coleman Fellowships have presented me the opportunity to connect the entrepreneurial world of small business with the college campus and the liberal arts education. I have found great satisfaction in bringing the important tools of small business to talented young students. These students have great passion for the path they are pursuing, and so they have the most important, most fundamental ingredient of entrepreneurship. What they typically lack is an understanding of the financial basics that every entrepreneur needs, and a deep understanding of what I like to call the “entrepreneurial mindset.”
In the Entrepreneurship in the Arts and Society course last year, I brought those basics to students through teaching to them how to create a budget for an event—one that could possibly take place over an extended period and might have fairly complex budgetary issues. The notions I taught them extended well to the projects they were undertaking. This year I am helping students launch ongoing ventures that must deal with issues of financing, managing cash flow, identifying target markets, and creating business plans. I am working with the pop-up gallery, a project started in last year’s Coleman sponsored course, who are now in the process of rewriting their business plan and planning their first gallery exhibition and art sale.
I am also working with Ben Rinehart and his students on establishing the business model for the new printmaking venture. I will teach students basic financial and business notions in Ben’s printmaking course, and I find it important to let the Lawrence faculty members I interact with know that I am always happy to bring that perspective into their classrooms. Though it would be naïve to expect that the entrepreneurial perspective would find immediate acceptance in all classrooms at Lawrence, I perceive significant progress as compared to two years ago. Our drive to incorporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) into the liberal arts curriculum at Lawrence has already created a number of believers, and I credit the Coleman Fellows’ activities with these remarkable changes.
One sign of the change that we are effecting through the Coleman Fellows Program at Lawrence is that almost a dozen students have approached me recently about independent studies or tutorials that focus on financial basics or launching an entrepreneurial venture. These students are developing an interest for which there had been no support earlier at Lawrence University, but which they can now pursue along with their other curricular and extra-curricular interests. I firmly believe that if we can impart to these students the entrepreneurial mindset and the basics of financial analysis as part of their liberal arts education, they will be better positioned to pursue their dreams and live fulfilling lives. Their creativity, individuality, and drive to create something new and valuable will be enabled by these skills that must be in every entrepreneur’s toolbox.