Engaging in entrepreneurship
A student starts a summer camp providing opportunities for disadvantaged youth on Chicago’s South Side. A businessman creates a unique venture selling gourmet hotdogs. A classically trained pianist launches a national networking group for musicians and record industry professionals. What do these stories have in common?
They are a few of the many examples of University of Redlands alumni and students who are using their discernment, inventiveness, and tenacity in entrepreneurial activities, as described in this issue of Och Tamale.
While the best definition of entrepreneurship is always a matter of some debate, the description I favor is the one inspired by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation: “the transformation of an idea into an enterprise of lasting value.” For any endeavor to qualify as truly entrepreneurial, it must embody all four italicized elements.
This definition is broad enough to cast as entrepreneurs not only the business visionaries who might first come to one’s mind—say, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, or Oprah Winfrey—but also some of this country’s greatest inventors and social activists.
Thomas Edison, for example, turned his idea for electrical illumination into an invention of a practical lightbulb, then further advanced its transformative power by commercializing it through his company, Edison Electric Light Company. Susan B. Anthony’s ideas about social reform translated into many important activities within the women’s movement of her era, eventually leading to the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote. Frederick Douglass, too, can be considered a social entrepreneur for his pivotal leadership in the Abolitionist Movement, including the creation of the antislavery newspaper North Star.
While the nurturing of entrepreneurs is often linked to activities within large research universities or institutes with a portfolio of patents and an associated business incubator, the University of Redlands contributes its own flavor of entrepreneurship, drawing on its strengths as a liberal arts and graduate and professional university.
Part of the fabric of the U of R is an ethos of openness and exploration, of creativity and contribution to the social good, that oftentimes goes hand in hand with entrepreneurship. A Redlands education—which encompasses critical thinking, personalized instruction, experiential learning, and community engagement—provides fertile ground for students to come up with transformative ideas and to develop the confidence to act on them.
School of Business Professor Jim Spee (see page 14) provides an example of how entrepreneurial thinking can be integrated into classwork with his Sustainable Innovation course, in which multiple cohorts of students have helped advance the development of a solar-powered portable shower. Will this effort lead to an “enterprise of lasting value” for use in disaster response, homeless facilities, and remote campgrounds? That is yet to be determined, but it certainly has that potential.
At the University of Redlands, we don’t just incubate creativity and ideas and encourage engagement; we also recognize and honor entrepreneurship in others. Redlands native
Tim Rochford, for example, received an honorary doctorate from the University in recognition of not only his business entrepreneurship in the gas and oil industry, but more importantly his social entrepreneurship with his wife, Carol, providing innovative programs for disadvantaged youth (see page 53).
Our University history is itself filled with pivotal entrepreneurial activity, where we established ourselves as first or foremost in our fields. Near the University’s outset, in 1911, the U of R introduced one of the first schools of music in California. In 1968, we launched the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies, today one of the rarest of colleges in the country where students define their own curriculum and major through personalized contracts, and receive narrative evaluations instead of letter grades. In 1976, we founded the precursor to our School of Business, the Alfred North Whitehead College for Lifelong Learning, to provide educational services for working professionals. For the last two decades, we have been a leader in spatial studies, infusing spatial thinking in creative ways throughout our curriculum. In 2007, we introduced the Meditation Room, the first contemplative classroom in the United States.
Even our most cherished traditions can incorporate innovation, as in the recent installation of our first female bulldog mascot, Adelaide. Continuous innovation is part of our fabric and is a key element in our strategic plan, North Star 2020. In this vein, our annual Innovation Fund Grants advance promising projects, such as the creation of a shared fabrication facility with 3-D printing, that
will serve us in the future.
While today’s world presents us with an array of challenges, the entrepreneurial spirit I see in University of Redlands alumni, students, faculty, and staff gives me confidence that we can work together to create the enterprises of tomorrow, providing lasting value to future generations of Bulldogs and beyond.
Ralph W. Kuncl, PhD MD
University of Redlands