Walk a Mile in My Shoes: Integrating Entrepreneurship and Academics
Entrepreneurship programs teach life skills; so how can someone teach how to be an
entrepreneur without actually doing it? The simple truth is, you can’t. At North Central
College, we teach AND we do.
Business students can learn about theory within a discipline or skills in a classroom in
preparation for employment that transfers to a corporate environment. That’s not so easy
for a student learning to develop the skills necessary for a startup.
Entrepreneurship is best taught by those who have practical experience, including
business development, growth or change implementation. These entrepreneurs, acting as
business coaches, help reduce the intimidation factor of starting a business. They assist
budding entrepreneurs in understanding how to create value out of their business
concept. A good business coach helps the student present a business concept to potential
customers, and helps validate their idea as a viable one.
Practitioners expose students to business realities. Through these experiences, students
are more likely to develop practical skills necessary in the real world — such as making
change, managing tradeoffs of risk versus reward, and solving problems.
Understanding the importance of integrating practice with business theory, more business
accelerators are showing up in academic institutions throughout Illinois. Check out this Daily Herald article.
The idea behind business accelerators is the creation of an ecosystem that helps both
students and mid-career individuals learn new skills and that will promote startup activity
on campus and the surrounding community. Evaluation of student effort is measured by
business outcomes such as the ability to launch a business and the attainment of value
milestones, as opposed to grades.
A university-supported business accelerator creates a win/win for students and the
community. They augment the academic classroom and online curriculum, providing
budding entrepreneurs with coaching and process for natural learning opportunities.
A practical teaching environment immerses students in startups, allowing them to feel
energized, or sometimes totally intimidated with the realities of running a business.
Academics combined with practitioner-led approaches allow students to experience
failure and learn in real-world environments that cannot be achieved online or in a
Relatively speaking, going to school is easy and employment with an existing
organization in exchange for a weekly paycheck is straightforward.
Starting a business from scratch is difficult yet perhaps one of life’s more gratifying
endeavors. Integrating entrepreneurs with academics creates game-changing
opportunities for students. It allows them to understand what it takes to work on the front
lines of a dynamic environment, and gives them the confidence to pursue their
entrepreneurship dreams. They learn to walk in others’ shoes and be prepared for
employment with a fast-growing company, or learn the skills and reap the success of a
company they created and founded.