Entrepreneurship at Temple is going campus-wide—and the Temple University Entrepreneurship Academy (TUEA) is at the helm of this effort. The Academy, formed in 2015 in partnership with the President’s office, works to educate faculty on incorporating entrepreneurship into their curriculum, and runs workshops and events on campus to support students who aspire to be entrepreneurial in their careers. So far, the effects have been far-reaching. In three years, TUEA has run more than a dozen programs, reached thousands of students, and created key partnerships in schools like the Tyler School of Art, the College of Engineering, the College of Education, and the College of Liberal Arts (CLA).
“TUEA works together with faculty across campus with the ultimate mission of enabling students to make an impact and create their own success,” says Professor Alan Kerzner, who is Director of TUEA. “Our programs teach students how to follow their passion and make a living at the same time.”
One of the Academy’s most recent and impactful efforts happened over the past year in partnership with the Intellectual Heritage (IH) program, now in its fifth decade as part of the core curriculum at CLA and a key part of the University’s General Education program, meaning undergraduate students from all of Temple’s schools and colleges enroll in the course. IH courses guide students through the “great texts”—some of the most famous and influential political, social, and scientific works ever written—and ask them to apply the principles from these works to contemporary societal issues. No small feat, although an important one for sure.
But what does it have to do with entrepreneurship?
“Despite common perceptions,” says Professor Robert McNamee, Managing Director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute at Temple University and head of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship academic programs at the Fox School of Business, “entrepreneurship is not just about starting your own business or getting rich quick. In fact, entrepreneurship is aligned in many ways with what the Intellectual Heritage program is teaching, especially when it comes to doing good for society. Entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation—these can all be harnessed to create solutions to real-world problems. Solutions that can that can ultimately lead to real change.”
During the 2016-2017 school year, TUEA and CLA partnered on a program around Social Entrepreneurship that saw an overwhelmingly positive reaction from students. Knowing it was important to continue supporting this audience, Professors Kerzner and McNamee worked together with CLA leadership and Dana Dawson, Associate Director of Temple’s GenEd program, to identify new ways to reach students wanting to use entrepreneurial thinking to make the world a better place.
“We knew working with the IH program would be a unique opportunity,” said Professor McNamee. “The GenEd program at Temple University reaches so many students, and we knew this partnership could be really impactful.”
The plan was to incorporate creative problem solving techniques into the Intellectual Heritage II course. Titled “The Common Good,” this course asks students to consider issues like the balance between individual liberty and the public good and how power and privilege define one’s capacity to make change. The goal? To harness the critical thinking skills the students were practicing and turn their ideas into actionable solutions that could solve the problems they were identifying.
“We learned from IH faculty that students were understanding the issues, but sometimes becoming disheartened by their enormity,” said Professor Kerzner. “They were finding it difficult to identify ways to really address problems this big, this complicated.”
That’s where entrepreneurial thinking and creative problem solving came in. Using these practices, students were taught to shift their thinking so that it was solution-focused. They took time to really understand the problem at hand, and to identify aspects of it that were addressable. Professor Kerzner guest lectured at some class sessions, and students got to work coming up with solutions. Throughout the course, students were given the opportunity to attend workshops that helped them break down problems and develop their ideas for addressing them, and each semester culminated in a pitch competition, where students presented the problems they were studying and their planned solutions.
Intellectual Heritage professor Naomi Taback saw a change in the way her students were feeling. “I saw students,” she said, “Even ones who were often quiet in class, become animated, passionate, and enthusiastic about their ideas and solutions.”
“Many, many students at Temple, regardless of which college they are in, want to make a difference,” added CLA Dean Richard Deeg. “They want to make the world a better place, even in a small way. The collaboration between the Entrepreneurship Academy and Intellectual Heritages exposes a large number of students to practical techniques for turning their passion into action and tangible results.”
Inciting this passion in students, and helping faculty across campus to do it, too, is the heart of TUEA’s mission. With more than 6000 students enrolled in the IH program each semester, this partnership has potential to spread the entrepreneurial spirit on campus in a big way. The initial pilot program expanded from two to seventeen course sections of Intellectual Heritage II between fall 2017 and spring 2018. The program is expected to launch in more than twenty sections this coming fall.
“TUEA resources and expertise have enhanced GenEd courses by connecting classroom- based learning with action,” says Dana Dawson. Under Dana’s guidance, faculty teaching other GenEd courses have reached out to TUEA, and both professors Kerzner and McNamee see high potential for TUEA to expand their work with the GenEd program in the future.
This spring, TUEA was the recipient of the Fox School of Business IMPACT Award, which recognizes high-impact group achievements that define our community, move the school forward, and serve as a role model for others. If the success of the partnership with IH is any indication, this is just the beginning of TUEA’s cross-campus influence.
Philly as an entrepreneurship destination? – In January, entrepreneurship leaders from Philadelphia’s universities gathered to discuss the steps necessary for strengthening the city’s reputation as a destination for entrepreneurially minded college students. Ellen Weber, Assistant Professor of Strategic Management and Executive Director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute, and Robert McNamee, Assistant Professor of Strategic Management and Academic Director of IEI, attended and were featured in the article.
When Kahn Louise Miller submitted her idea for a smartphone app that facilitates safe connections between erotic services providers and their clients to the 2013 Innovative Idea Competition at Temple University, she assumed she would be disqualified. Instead, she won two awards – the Stan Angelo Smart Bulb Award for Brightest Retail Idea and the People’s Choice Award.
Miller, an undergraduate public health major, was one of four students from a new Temple General Education course, Creativity & Organizational Innovation, who were named among 12 finalists in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute’s (IEI) idea competition, a university-wide challenge to think up new products, services and technologies that have potential to become businesses.
Miller’s location-based app, Hook, would allow street-based erotic services providers and clients to connect spontaneously, safely and discreetly. While the concept is inspired by Miller’s experience leading Philadelphia-based Project SAFE, an organization that serves the unmet health needs of women working in prostitution, the product is intended for countries where erotic services have been fully or partially decriminalized.
Ideas like Hook, those that push limits, are exactly the kind of concepts that the Creativity & Organizational Innovation course, offered through the Fox School of Business, is designed to foster. New this fall, the course is open to students across the university and teaches creative problem solving as a tool to come up with different organizational and business models.
“Companies today can’t be static the way they used to be,” said IEI Academic Director and course founder Robert McNamee. “Every organization and every employee has to be creative and be able to solve problems, to drive innovation and change in an organization.”
The course acknowledges that society, organizations and other factors often stifle individuals’ tendencies to consider offbeat ideas, break the rules or challenge the status quo, McNamee said. To fight that, the course creates a comfortable atmosphere to talk about all sorts of ideas. Then, students work to deconstruct each idea, determine why it is valuable and why it may or may not be feasible.
“The undergraduate curriculum has to keep evolving, staying ahead of the curve whenever possible, and providing our students with new ides, new perspectives and the opportunity to develop different skill sets,” said Peter Jones, Temple’s senior vice provost for undergraduate studies. “This course, SGM 827, is clearly doing that – and some.”
Had it not been for the course, Miller said, she would not have submitted her idea to the Innovative Idea Competition. Neither would the three other students in the course who also made it to the final round, McNamee said.
“People don’t realize the potential of their ideas,” he said. “The reality is you have to give ideas a chance. You have to get them out there and get them out of your head.”
That is one reason the course requires all students to enter the competition, where this year’s ideas ranged from grand-prize winning Genie Player, a smartphone app designed by the Fox School’s Zhewei Zhang that syncs a user’s movements with a unique algorithm-based music experience, to College of Science and Technology student Michael Ward’s GreenerGreens, a company that grows produce hydroponically and sells it to local, urban grocers, and CityBrella, an umbrella rental system thought up by Meng Hsuan Tsai, an undergraduate Fox student.
Next, Miller and some of the other finalists plan to submit their ideas to IEI’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl® (BYOBB), a business plan competition that helps Temple students, faculty, staff and alumni advance their ideas by assigning senior-executive mentors and hosting business plan workshops, open mentoring nights and more. Last year’s grand prize included $130,000 in cash, professional products and services, and incubation space – all intended to turn the winning idea into a thriving business. Other track and category prizes are also awarded.
This year’s Innovative Idea Competition finalists were Nicholas Scott Horn, Fox School; Kahn Louise Miller, College of Health Professions and Social Work; Alex Petyearak, School of Media and Communication; Zhewei Zhang, Fox School; Winifred Glover, School of Tourism and Hospitality Management; Mike Haley, Fox School; Brandon Bahr, Fox School; Meng Hsuan Tsai, Fox School; Viktoriya Tverskaya, Fox School; Joe Doyle, Fox School; Michael Ward, College of Science and Technology; and Todor Raykov, Fox School.
An upcoming TechConnect workshop to help commercialize early stage technology is the latest example of Temple University’s integrated commercialization support program, which provides a clearer path to market for inventors.
In Spring 2013, Temple hosted its first TechConnect workshop at the Fox School of Business, bringing together technology inventors with business students and professionals, to help commercialize early stage technology.
Fox’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute, in conjunction with Temple’s Office of Technology Development and Commercialization, launched the integrated technology commercialization support program in 2012-13 to increase support for inventors.
This year’s TechConnect will take place Nov. 12 and 14 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The event is free, but space is limited. Attendees are encouraged to register by Nov. 4 via http://iei.temple.edu/techconnect.
“The IEI already runs a very successful angel investment group, Mid-Atlantic Diamond Ventures (MADV). Unfortunately, most university technology is a long way off from earning revenue—a pre-condition for presenting to MADV,” IEI Academic Director Robert McNamee said of the unique ecosystem being built at Temple. “Thus we identified the need for a series of support programs that would help faculty and graduate students assess market opportunities for their technologies, apply for translational research grants, and ultimately help them find the partners and funding to potentially launch their new ventures.”
The TechConnect workshop is already delivering results. In October, a team from Temple’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences (CIS) received a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Program. This prestigious program is designed to spur translational research, encourage collaboration between academia and industry, and train students to understand innovation and entrepreneurship.
The funded team includes CIS Associate Professor Xiaojiang Du (principal investigator), PhD candidate Longfei Wu (entrepreneurial lead), and mentor Andrew Maxwell, an assistant professor who has a joint appointment in the Fox School of Business and the College of Engineering. The Temple team was one of only 15 nationally to receive the grant in this round of funding.
As part of the program, the team attended online training and a three-day workshop in New York, where their commercialization plans were put to the test.
“Getting insights, as well as funding, from the I-Corps team was just the type of reinforcement we needed to take this great wireless technology solution to the next level,” Maxwell said of the team’s proposal to improve wireless reception by reducing interference between local wireless transmitters.
The first TechConnect workshop attracted more than 25 participants from Temple’s School of Medicine, College of Engineering, College of Science and Technology, and Fox School of Business. Participants engaged in a series of hands-on exercises around several promising technologies developed by participants with periodic pitches back to the main group.
The IEI has designed the next TechConnect workshop to be twice as large and to have an even greater impact.
“We are excited to bring in the Greater Philadelphia Senior Executive Group as a partner for the upcoming TechConnect workshop,” McNamee said. “GPSEG members bring incredible business and industry experience to the table and will serve as mentors for the teams.”
“It’s like a snowball,” Maxwell added. “Once one person participates and learns about the process, especially if they receive funding, then others will understand the benefits and come as well. Eventually the networks created at these events reach critical mass and we start seeing new technology-based ventures launch in Philadelphia. This can be truly transformative for the region.”