Post-secondary Entrepreneurship Education

StudyingSuki John, Ph.D. is a dancer, dance instructor, and expert in Cuban modern dance. She is the author of Contemporary Dance in Cuba: Técnica Cubana as Revolutionary Movement, and the founder of Cuban Arts Match, which brings together North American and Cuban artists, students, scholars, and art lovers. John is also Associate Professor in the School for Classical and Contemporary Dance in the College of Fine Arts at Texas Christian University.

When her dean put out a call in 2011 for Coleman Fellows, John immediately recognized the opportunity. “Nearly as many dancers are self-employed as those working in performing arts companies, and a third of all artists are primarily selfemployed at any given time,” she says. “Part of being an artist is building a career when there are few clear paths. As artists, we are really attached to our artistic product. But the question is: how can I make money to support my work of art? I was looking at how to make my experiences translatable to students, because building a career means being prepared.”

John worked closely with Michael Sherrod, the William M. Dickey Entrepreneur in Residence of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Department at Texas Christian University, who himself has a notable record of business creation in publishing and web-based enterprise. Together—John as a Coleman Fellow and Sherrod as her Project Director—they created and cotaught Launch Pad, an interdisciplinary course for business and art students. The course was well received because, as John put it, “Business students need creativity, while art students need practical skills.”

John also developed Career Preparation for Dancers, a course now mandatory for all dance students. It includes a number of career building blocks, including creating resumes, editing video for auditions, writing CVs for teaching, and developing websites for dancers. “I bring in various specialists: a career counselor, a Broadway dancer, a marketing consultant. I want students to leave with a toolbox.”

A student who completed the course described its impact:

I never believed I could be anything in the dance world but a dancer. The only thing my professors ever looked at was my form. After having Dr. John, I now realize that my career in dance can be more than my form or my dance talent, or luck. I can see myself creating a whole line of dance clothing, but I never got permission to go there until this course. It has brought back all the excitement and passion I had for dance when I started this program.

As the student’s comment suggests, many career trajectories now include business development and self-employment, in professions as wide-ranging as music and engineering, culinary arts and chemistry, marketing and mathematics, philosophy and social work. This makes entrepreneurship learning widely relevant.

Over ten years the Coleman Foundation Faculty Entrepreneurship Fellows Program helped entrepreneurship professors (Project Directors) in business schools work with faculty (Fellows) in other departments to address this need. The Program design was straightforward. Fellows and Project Directors kicked off the academic year by joining Coleman Foundation staff in annual summits for relationship-building, learning, and idea-sharing. Fellows drew on Project Directors’ deep business knowledge to integrate entrepreneurship into their own courses. Fellows taught and posted new syllabi on the Program website, and explored their colleagues’ pedagogy and course content. Project Directors convened Fellows on campus for monthly webinars and discussions. The overall goal, as the Foundation’s President and CEO Michael Hennessy put it, was “to have entrepreneurship professors in business schools reach a larger and more diverse number of students, and to help them see the opportunities provided by self-employment.”

For nearly 40 years, the Coleman Foundation has supported the growth of post-secondary entrepreneurship education through a number of grant streams. The Coleman Fellows Program was its most recent initiative. The idea for the Program came from a handful of entrepreneurship educators who were working with faculty colleagues to expand teaching about self-employment and business development into other professions. For a foundation that is proud of being responsive (and reluctant to impose its ideas on practitioners), building on work already begun by leaders in the field was an attractive proposition.

The Fellows Program leaves two main legacies: (1) multidisciplinary faculty from 33 colleges and universities who have embedded the teaching of entrepreneurship skills and knowledge in their coursework; and (2) tens of thousands of students who have learned about entrepreneurship as a possibility for themselves and acquired skills that can help them respond to opportunities.

Post-secondary Entrepreneurship Education

Suki John
Suki John, PhD
Suki John, Ph.D. is a dancer, dance instructor, and expert in Cuban modern dance. She is the author of Contemporary Dance in Cuba: Técnica Cubana as Revolutionary Movement, and the founder of Cuban Arts Match, which brings together North American and Cuban artists, students, scholars, and art lovers. John is also Associate Professor in the School for Classical and Contemporary Dance in the College of Fine Arts at Texas Christian University.

When her dean put out a call in 2011 for Coleman Fellows, John immediately recognized the opportunity. “Nearly as many dancers are self-employed as those working in performing arts companies, and a third of all artists are primarily selfemployed at any given time,” she says. “Part of being an artist is building a career when there are few clear paths. As artists, we are really attached to our artistic product. But the question is: how can I make money to support my work of art? I was looking at how to make my experiences translatable to students, because building a career means being prepared.”

John worked closely with Michael Sherrod, the William M. Dickey Entrepreneur in Residence of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Department at Texas Christian University, who himself has a notable record of business creation in publishing and web-based enterprise. Together—John as a Coleman Fellow and Sherrod as her Project Director—they created and cotaught Launch Pad, an interdisciplinary course for business and art students. The course was well received because, as John put it, “Business students need creativity, while art students need practical skills.”

John also developed Career Preparation for Dancers, a course now mandatory for all dance students. It includes a number of career building blocks, including creating resumes, editing video for auditions, writing CVs for teaching, and developing websites for dancers. “I bring in various specialists: a career counselor, a Broadway dancer, a marketing consultant. I want students to leave with a toolbox.”

A student who completed the course described its impact:

I never believed I could be anything in the dance world but a dancer. The only thing my professors ever looked at was my form. After having Dr. John, I now realize that my career in dance can be more than my form or my dance talent, or luck. I can see myself creating a whole line of dance clothing, but I never got permission to go there until this course. It has brought back all the excitement and passion I had for dance when I started this program.

As the student’s comment suggests, many career trajectories now include business development and self-employment, in professions as wide-ranging as music and engineering, culinary arts and chemistry, marketing and mathematics, philosophy and social work. This makes entrepreneurship learning widely relevant.

Over ten years the Coleman Foundation Faculty Entrepreneurship Fellows Program helped entrepreneurship professors (Project Directors) in business schools work with faculty (Fellows) in other departments to address this need. The Program design was straightforward. Fellows and Project Directors kicked off the academic year by joining Coleman Foundation staff in annual summits for relationship-building, learning, and idea-sharing. Fellows drew on Project Directors’ deep business knowledge to integrate entrepreneurship into their own courses. Fellows taught and posted new syllabi on the Program website, and explored their colleagues’ pedagogy and course content. Project Directors convened Fellows on campus for monthly webinars and discussions. The overall goal, as the Foundation’s President and CEO Michael Hennessy put it, was “to have entrepreneurship professors in business schools reach a larger and more diverse number of students, and to help them see the opportunities provided by self-employment.”

For nearly 40 years, the Coleman Foundation has supported the growth of post-secondary entrepreneurship education through a number of grant streams. The Coleman Fellows Program was its most recent initiative. The idea for the Program came from a handful of entrepreneurship educators who were working with faculty colleagues to expand teaching about self-employment and business development into other professions. For a foundation that is proud of being responsive (and reluctant to impose its ideas on practitioners), building on work already begun by leaders in the field was an attractive proposition.

The Fellows Program leaves two main legacies: (1) multidisciplinary faculty from 33 colleges and universities who have embedded the teaching of entrepreneurship skills and knowledge in their coursework; and (2) tens of thousands of students who have learned about entrepreneurship as a possibility for themselves and acquired skills that can help them respond to opportunities.

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