Academic journal article American Journal of Entrepreneurship

Crossing Boundaries and Redefining Roles: Humanists as Academic Entrepreneurs

Academic journal article American Journal of Entrepreneurship

Crossing Boundaries and Redefining Roles: Humanists as Academic Entrepreneurs

Article excerpt


As Jain, Gerard, and Maltarich (2009) argue, faculty need to balance their workloads carefully when engaging in entrepreneurial activities because those activities may be perceived to interfere with their central roles as teachers and scholars. We argue that the challenges involved in forging a successful entrepreneurial role are magnified in institutional contexts such as ours where faculty have high teaching loads and less access to institutional support for entrepreneurial activities, including release time, funding, and technologies. As professional and technical writing faculty working within an English department at a regional Master's university, we cross disciplinary, pedagogical, and other boundaries to pursue entrepreneurship while fulfilling our faculty obligations that are directly required for achieving tenure and promotion. To integrate entrepreneurial activities into our workloads successfully, we developed an adaptive approach that is flexible, pedagogically centered, and functions well within our institutional context by allowing us to focus on benefitting our students' learning through entrepreneurial activities.

Below we discuss traditional models of business and academic entrepreneurship and illustrate how we adapt the aspects of each to our local context. We contextualize our approach within the pedagogical needs of our discipline, professional and technical writing, and within our humanities department and regional Master's university. We then describe two pilot projects designed around an adaptive approach to academic entrepreneurship, presenting them as cases that can be built upon and enacted in similar academic contexts. This approach to academic entrepreneurship facilitates the crossing of all sorts of institutional and disciplinary boundaries and encourages faculty to create multifaceted roles that help them to demonstrate to students how to manage the sorts of boundaryless careers that they will have as 21stcentury knowledge workers. The instability of future organizational contexts will require students to employ skills such as creativity and flexibility that are central to entrepreneurship.

Models of entrepreneurship

Different approaches to entrepreneurship abound, including economic, environmental, social, and sustainable (Richomme-Huet & De Freyman, 2014; Tilley & Young, 2009). Our focus, academic entrepreneurship (henceforth AE), is unique in that it includes within its structural framework capacities for knowledge creation where students can participate in entrepreneurial processes (Grimaldi, Kenney, Siegel, & Wright, 2011; Siegel & Wright, 2015). Before examining the challenges that we face within the context of our institution with regard to engaging in AE, we provide an overview of the central features of AE and our adaptive approach. Our discussion is inspired by the perspectives of Stokes, Wilson, & Mador (2010) regarding dimensions of entrepreneurship, including the related processes, behaviors, and outcomes. The distinctions between the approaches can facilitate a dialogue about the workable AE structures appropriate for our institutional context. Further, as pointed out by scholars, defining a concept thoroughly is imperative when identifying a new trend in the field (Richomme-Huet & De Freyman, 2014). As we outline below, our adaptive approach is unique in the sense that it is a departure from conventional forms of AE, one that is productive for faculty at regional Master's universities who seek to cultivate entrepreneurial ambitions within humanities departments.

Large-Scale Academic Entrepreneurship

Large-scale AE is a variable of the broader concept of institutional entrepreneurship wherein individuals or groups leverage resources to build or transform existing business structures within an institution (Maguire, Hardy, & Lawrence, 2004). AE differs from business entrepreneurship in that the latter centers on entrepreneurship involving "self-interested economic actor[s]" utilizing scarce resources mainly to enhance profits (Montanye, 2006, p. …

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