This week we continue our series highlighting educators within the VentureWell network who are doing good work—faculty members who are challenging norms in higher education and inspiring students to impact the world through invention.
This month’s faculty spotlight is Nathalie Duval-Couetil, Director of the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, and Associate Professor of Technology, Leadership, and Innovation at Purdue University. She is responsible for the launch and development of the university’s multidisciplinary undergraduate entrepreneurship program, which enrolls over 1,800 students per year. As part of the program, she has established entrepreneurship capstone, global entrepreneurship, and women and leadership courses and initiatives. Duval-Couetil is an active member of the VentureWell community, participating in the National Innovation Network (NIN) program, and serving as a Principal Investigator for several Faculty Grants and a presenter at our OPEN conference.
How did you get interested in teaching entrepreneurship?
I worked part-time at an incubator called the 128 Entrepreneurs’ Center in Massachusetts while getting my MBA from Babson College, a leader in entrepreneurship education. While working at Booz Allen and Hamilton in Europe, I gained a strong background in market research and strategy. I also worked for two entrepreneurial companies run by their founders. These experiences would have come in handy during my childhood when my parents were trying to run a part-time mountaineering equipment business out of our basement!
What is your favorite thing about teaching?
My favorite aspect about entrepreneurship education is that it is a good opportunity to embellish traditional educational models with some real-life inspiration and practical application. I particularly enjoy helping students understand entrepreneurship and business by bringing experienced entrepreneurs into the classroom to explain what it’s like to live it and breathe it. It’s also satisfying to create hands-on learning opportunities about entrepreneurship that parallels the real world. Students benefit greatly from that diverse educational approach.
Where would you like to see the field of entrepreneurship in five years?
I would like to see the field move beyond the traditional questions it has been trying to answer for decades and focus more on policy issues that will enable more people to pursue an entrepreneurial path. This includes broadening the discourse beyond the founding of tech companies and focusing more attention on diverse types of ventures and populations.
It’s essential to have the emphasis on high-growth companies, but in the past decade, entrepreneurship has lost too much of the discourse around small business. If you want vibrant communities, if you want people to be able to feed their families, that can happen in a lot of different ways beyond creating a tech startup.
What traits make for great teachers, advisors, and mentors?
Having the best interest of students in mind. It is important to inspire students through entrepreneurship education; however, it is also important to set realistic expectations and prepare students for long-term, successful careers regardless of the paths they choose.
What books on entrepreneurship and innovation have you been reading lately?
Lately, my reading has focused on research articles related to women entrepreneurs and faculty entrepreneurship. This topic is very important to me.
What’s your most useful classroom activity or assignment?
In a New Product Development course, I created a “crash course” activity that had to be completed and presented during the first week of class. Student teams were given products ranging from toys to air fresheners. In 48 hours, they had to create pitches on how to improve these products. The idea was to give them a clear sense of the scope of what they would learn throughout the semester.