Nov. 23, 2023

Community engagement transforms entrepreneurial thinking education and research at UCalgary

RBC grant to Haskayne School of Business supports new projects
Mark Ward and Michael Robinson

Mark Ward, left, and Michael Robinson

The Haskayne School of Business is finding new ways to help University of Calgary students embrace entrepreneurial thinking with a new Block Week course added to its MBA curriculum this year, as well as publishing a new book by one of its entrepreneurship and innovation professors.

The course, Entrepreneurial Leadership, focuses on how to integrate entrepreneurship within an established enterprise. “Corporate entrepreneurship matters because it answers the question of how we can create and capture value for our stakeholders,” says course professor Dr. Mark Ward, DBA’23.

The course pairs elements of the classroom with experiential learning through onsite visits to the Centre for Affordable Water & Sanitation Technologies (CAWST), where students are asked to identify opportunities for the company to create and sustain a competitive advantage.

The field visit was a valuable experience that helped put the issues and opportunities that the company was investigating into perspective,” says Elham Cunningham, an MBA student at Haskayne. “It was great to see first-hand how a social enterprise operates and how important innovation is in driving its mission forward.”

Craig Stickel, another MBA student, says he was a bit skeptical when originally enrolling, finding it hard to believe that entrepreneurship can exist in already-established corporations but now, having taken the course, his perspective has shifted.

“It is possible to innovate within larger organizations; it takes a lot of work but if you’re doing an MBA, you’re not afraid of a little work. It’s empowering to realize that this can be done,” says Stickel.

Yet another course alum and MBA student, Ann Nath, who is interested in startups, says she believes the course will help her in her future.

“Innovation is an important aspect of startup culture because you are establishing yourself in the market, and the product portfolio is important,” says Nath. “Understanding the framework, complexities, jargon and principles will definitely help me with my future work.” 

Adds Ward: “The course is designed to help students develop working knowledge of corporate entrepreneurship concepts, tools and frameworks. Students will have an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained in the course to solve a real-world problem and to engage in critical reflection to learn more about their leadership.” 

Development support for the new course came from the RBC Teaching and Curriculum grant program administered by the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to help strengthen entrepreneurial learning.

Through a grant from this same program, Dr. Michael Robinson, PhD, professor of entrepreneurship finance at Haskayne, has written a new book, Founder's Guide to Governance: Beyond a Good Idea, to help business creators understand the skills, knowledge and resources required to lead a company.

“A lot of entrepreneurs, especially first-time founders, see themselves as predominantly satisfying a customer need, which is, of course, what they have to do,” says Robinson. “But they forget that they also have to build an organization to develop the product that's going to satisfy customer needs. And, as a result, they don't think about the governance that's required to attract the supporters, employees, advisers and investors that are going to help them establish that product.

“This book was developed in consultation with a number of people in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to help founders better understand what their role should be, and how they should move their corporation forward.”

The book will be used as required readings for multiple Haskayne courses.

Together, the complementary course and book enable meaningful experiential learning and rich community engagement, preparing students with entrepreneurial-thinking competences to overcome 21st-century challenges and advance their communities.

Students can register for Entrepreneurial Leadership when it is next offered. Robinson’s book can be found at bookstores and online retailers.

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