Denise WilliamsTitle, department and job responsibilities: I am currently an assistant marketing and management professor, and a lead instructor in the College of Business’ Real Business Experience (RBE) course. This experiential learning course is mandatory for sophomores and engages students in an actual small business start up model. This experience offers students a unique opportunity to gain knowledge, competitive skills, and personal confidence while creating and testing their new business concept and experiencing “real life, real business.” Students have access to a Butler sponsored loan of up to $400 in the first semester and up to $5,000 in the elective second semester of RBE MG202 where they actually launch their business. Given that this is my first year and my doctorate focus is in Organizational Behavior and Entrepreneurship from Indiana University Kelley School of Business, I look forward to engaging in other courses related to those subjects in the future.

I consider my responsibilities to include the introduction of innovative and creative exercises into the classroom that help facilitate students’ growth and the learning process in this experiential format. Additionally, I recognize the unique program that RBE represents nationally and I focus on identifying opportunities to promote the students and their businesses as I work with Butler public relations specialists, encourage student participation in conferences and engagement in more scholastic research activities, as well as seek opportunities for collaboration with other departments within Butler.

Years at Butler: I joined the Butler faculty in August 2011.

Most memorable academic experience(s) at Butler: In my short tenure thus far, I have many memorable experiences. Being a member of the RBE team and its dynamic learning environment of student innovation and personal growth continues to create new benchmarks of opportunity and performance. However, I will speak to two additional service projects that I believe have significant impact to the Butler students and legacy.

I have been honored to serve on a committee of stellar Butler faculty in a taskforce established to evaluate the feasibility of adding an entrepreneurship major and minor to the College of Business curricula. While this decision is pending, it represents an exciting opportunity for the students, and the experience provides a confirmation that the programs offered by the Freshmen Business Experience and Real Business Experience to freshmen and sophomores respectively are unprecedented and highly competitive. As a new faculty member, the committee responsibilities gave me the opportunity to quickly meet members of the College of Business and other departments and engage them in deep, significant conversations. This experience increased my knowledge and confirmed my prior experience that Butler has special people and a special mission.

The second most memorable experience would have to be the Fall 2011 RBE Marketplace and Networking program featuring President James Danko as the keynote address, in which I had the honor of moving from a concept to reality. The president shared his experiences as an entrepreneur in the presentation entitled “Entrepreneur’s Wisdom and Passion.” This event was possible through the cooperation and collaboration with Career Development, Freshmen Business Experience, Real Business Experience, College of Business and the President’s Office. The program represented an unprecedented opportunity for the 28 business teams to meet each other in a professional environment at Clowes Hall, display their businesses and promote their products. Students had the opportunity to learn about the variety of products and services available to them as customers, competitors or future collaborators. The incremental benefit was the opportunity to work with and promote a talented graphic designer and photographer who was a senior at Butler and had her own entrepreneurial service.

Projects/research you’re currently involved with: From a research perspective, I am investigating how internal characteristics including ethnicity, gender, and intergenerational diversity, positive psychology (i.e. hope, efficacy, resilience, optimism, transcendental values), transformative leadership and collaborative motivations influence innovative behavior of individuals in commerce driven and social entrepreneurial organizations. Further, I’m interested in human potential development through the cultivation of creativity, entrepreneurial mindset, and mentorship support with experiential training and development interventions. Current research projects with colleagues under review at peer reviewed journals and conference submissions include exploring Latina entrepreneurs’ training preferences, as well as social networking and technology proclivity; and, evaluation of social entrepreneurship competencies at both academic and practitioner levels.

What current intellectual or creative question are you thinking about these days: The research literature has debated for decades whether entrepreneurs are born or made. The rapid growth of entrepreneurship courses in universities across the world confirm that there is a value for contributing to the development of this innovation mindset and a vast demand for training in this area. Recent works have expanded to focus on the entrepreneur’s compassion, passion, and capacity to grieve a business failure and see it as an opportunity to learn. To continue this conversation, I am driven to further inquire about this inner “spark” that motivates and drives an entrepreneur beyond the hard skills involved with business. What factors predict a person’s proclivity to take innovative action? Are these factors transferable in an educational setting? How do training interventions influence the relationship between levels of creativity and business start up?

Additionally, minority and women entrepreneurs have historically stronger rates of business start-ups than non-minorities; however, they have much lower sustainability. What factors influence the positive performance of global women microenterprise ventures that operate as a group collaborative? Are these factors transferable to U.S. minority women entrepreneurs through training interventions? How does this entrepreneurial group collaboration differ from traditional teams?

What do you enjoy most about teaching: I am the descendant of a long lineage of teachers starting with my grandparents in the early 1900’s. The opportunity to touch a young person’s life and help to facilitate their growth is an honor and privilege. I particularly enjoy the opportunity to introduce innovative techniques into the classroom that stimulate learning, interaction and self reflection. The teaching profession is one that offers a lifetime of continuous learning for me also as I find each new class and group of students to provide dynamic energy and new ways of thinking. Given my interest in experiential learning pedagogy, the classroom experience also provides interesting research questions about the learning process itself, particularly in the entrepreneurship and leadership domains.

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