At its heart, the George R. and Martha Means Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Illinois State University seeks to foster entrepreneurship through teaching, impactful outreach programs, and research, according to Avimanyu Datta, Ph.D.
The associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship moved into his role as director of the center earlier this year. Looking back at the history of the organization, Datta pointed to its consistent record of providing quality classroom experiences and offering growth opportunities for student entrepreneurs, such as StartUp Showcase. The area of research, however, has not received the emphasis and level of attention he feels it deserves.
“It’s not that nobody was researching, but we were not proactive in showcasing the research and we were never that proactive in actually funding research,” he said.
To begin to remedy this situation, the center recently created a new section on its website to spotlight faculty publications in top academic journals on entrepreneurship related topics. The list covers a wide range of facets of the area of study, including corporate entrepreneurship, peer networking, innovation, technology, patents, crowdfunding, international management, strategy, and artisans.
Moving forward, Datta also hopes to see the Means Center devote more resources to promoting faculty research by providing funds to send professors to conferences to present on entrepreneurship topics and purchasing statistical software and research databases.
High-quality faculty research has a direct impact on students’ classroom experience. Datta noted that as professors personally delve deeper into topics of interest, it helps to increase the overall rigor and richness of the classroom experience for students and sparks discussions relevant to current trends in the realm of entrepreneurship.
“You can teach a topic from the textbook and experience and many other things, but when you do a particular research, you have more insights into something,” he said.
Placing a stronger emphasis on research will also help to promote Illinois State as a leader in the entrepreneurship field and will help it to continue to attract top quality faculty researchers.
“It’s a growing area,” said Datta. “I think by showcasing the research we are going to be more impactful in the entire academic community.”
Traditionally, the Means Center centered its focus around small and medium businesses and startups. As Datta explained, however, the center is beginning to place a greater emphasis on corporate entrepreneurship as well because more and more large companies are utilizing entrepreneurship strategies in order to “create products that are fit for the future, while not hampering (their) existing products.”
The Means Center director also noted that due to its increasing reach, the field of entrepreneurship is a relevant course of study for students across campus.
“A lot of firms want managers who can create entrepreneurial thinking,” he said. “It’s not that they expect them to start their own business but (to consider the question), ‘How would I create newer types of products in an established firm?’ This is something that firms are actually looking for, and that’s why it’s important that students take one or two entrepreneurship classes, at least the corporate entrepreneurship class. That’s one of the reasons why we’re going to start in fall 2020 an entrepreneurship minor so (students across campus) can also take some of our courses and can see what they work on or what they study be commercialized to some extent.”
To learn more about the Means Center and to view the list of faculty research in the area of entrepreneurship, visit Business.IllinoisState.edu/Means.