Northern Arizona’s W.A. Franke College of Business is looking to land its very first Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR). In doing so, Northern Arizona University (NAU) will join prestigious schools such as Harvard, Cornell and others who have successfully put this model into place within their universities.
Traditionally, an EIR is brought on to assist businesses, usually in the realm of venture capitalism, with a multitude of things. For example, the seasoned entrepreneur may aid a company by giving insight into a field of expertise. In addition, the EIR might bring useful connections into the company’s network.
While the idea of an EIR has been around for some time, the process differs slightly when put to use in a university setting and depending on the university, the role of an EIR can take on a number of different responsibilities.
According to Craig Van Slyke, dean of the W.A. Franke College of Business, the idea to add an EIR to NAU’s offerings came after the school received a grant via the Marley Foundation intended to connect the disciplines of engineering and business.
“Engineering students do two semesters of conceptualize and prototype of a product,” explained Van Slyke. “But they [engineering students] don’t really have an emphasis on commercializing the product.
“So the idea behind the EIR is to bring together business students to work alongside the engineering students throughout the two semesters to help refine the concept of the product so it’s more commercially viable and then to develop a commercialization plan. Now we are looking for somebody to oversee this program and to teach the business side of that particular sequence.”
So who is the best person for the job?
Van Slyke, who has been working alongside NAU Dean of Engineering Paul Jagodzinski on the project, says the clear choice would be “… an entrepreneur who has made their own living this way. So that’s what we decided to do was have an entrepreneur in residence to run this program.”
While NAU will not be the first university to take on an EIR, the college is looking at the position as one with some long-term implications. The school hopes with the right EIR in place, the program can serve as a sort of model for the future.
“I’m looking at it as a way to add more faculty and more flexibility and I’m trying to look at creative ways to bring more faculty on board,” said Van Slyke. “We [NAU] are looking at it [EIR] in a more systematic and long-term way than I think other universities would be.”
While NAU might be looking at the EIR venture in a multi-faceted way compared to other schools, the benefits of bringing real-world application such as an experienced entrepreneur into the classroom will no doubt translate.
Alex Heintz, a former student at the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) College of Business, said, “The benefits from the mentoring, guidance, and support…” he received as part of the EIR program at FAU were “invaluable.”
“EIRs provide the tools and processes to evolve a business idea into a highly differentiated product or service, effectively communicate the execution strategy and value of the business through a business plan and financial model, and develop a concise and persuasive investor presentation,” said Heintz.
At a time when universities across the country are feeling the pressure to keep up with record enrollment and a higher demand on their faculty, the EIR has the possibility of providing innovation on a budget.
“There’s another really interesting piece to this … there are a lot of people retiring earlier than people used to,” explained Van Slyke. “They [retirees] may not want to be in the same environment or keep going with their same corporation but a lot of these people are interested in giving back to society and one way they see to do that is teaching. So with people like the EIR, we can get faculty members at a reasonable pay rate because money isn’t their main motivator. It’s this tremendous untapped resource with very high-level people that have a lot to offer our students.” FBN