What is Meant by Intellectual Entrepreneurship?

In contemplating the meaning and significance of the concept of "intellectual entrepreneurship," consider the words and thoughts of faculty, students, administrators and members of the community--each of whom comes to the concept with unique experiences, disciplines and motivations. Contribute your thoughts to us.

Intellectual entrepreneurship is creating synergistic relationships among academic disciplines and between intellectuals on and off campus: to make seamless connections among disciplines and between the academy and the public and private sectors. Intellectual entrepreneurship is about harnessing, integrating and productively utilizing intellectual energy and talent wherever it is located--in order to promote academic, cultural, political, social, and economic change.

It is NOT about providing skills or remedial education separate from the knowledge acquired in an academic discipline. The mission of intellectual entrepreneurship is to help students discover their discipline, celebrate the value of their expertise and become successful academic professionals. Our vision is to create spaces where intellectual entrepreneurs from inside and outside the University can gather to solve problems and promote change.

--Creator of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program

Intellectual Entrepreneurship involves:

"Structure of Engagement" -- a program that is structured to exhibit our absolute commitment to engage the problems of the world around us (both inside the university, but mostly outside it).

"Materialize Ideas" -- to work out in the real, material world the ideas of smart people. Ideas have consequences in more than a passive sense. They must become material in order to make any difference. The goal is not merely to understand the world, but to change it.

"Action Research" -- to wed knowing and being and doing; mind, soul, and spirit; head, heart, and hands; intelligence, passion, and action. We must do and promote research that has outcomes. It's more than just applied research--which can often rest on vacuous thinking. It's solid research tied to some implementation plan.

"Intellectual Capital" -- in two senses at least: 1) connecting the intellectual assets of the university to other kinds of capital (human, financial, social, etc.) of the community; 2) "capital"-izing on the intellectual assets of the university in creative and innovative ways.

-Director, Austin Technology Incubator

Entrepreneur: sensitive to the moment/creating the moment; Passion and courage to move; Skill, expertise, knowledge, intelligence to carry through.

The program will create a space for creative convergence--a play space. Play to solve problems.


Estuary: the place where salt water and fresh water merge, converge, diverge--among the most fertile, productive and dynamic ecosystems on the planet.

Rhizome: grows in all directions at once, networked. Barriers are incorporated or gone around (think grass, ivy, "weeds"). Can pull up bits and pieces, but to get rid of it, you'd have to get rid of the entire yard, and even then it would grow into what's left behind.

NOT only top down or hierarchical "we need to make leaders who can get the message across." RATHER, local indegenous, vernacular. Everyone has a piece of expertise. We help harmonize these pieces. Not the unity of a top down message, rather the harmony of orchestrating the pieces that are there. The beauty is in the differences harmonized.

Collaborative, synergistic, dialogic, interactive, poetic (world making). -Intellectual Entrepreneurship Coordinator and Faculty Member

Many futurists who look at the workforce of the 21st Century see an emerging interest from business and industry [I think government will also follow suit here] in hiring many more people who are "doctoral degreed." Futurists predict that a workforce with K- 14 educations will be the "doers" who have skills, and a new doctoral prepared workforce will be employed as the "thinkers." However, the difference between 20th Century Ph.D.'s and those of the 21st Century is that the new breed will not be tied at all to one discipline. They will be, as I call them, "transdisciplinary." What will distinguish the new doctorate will be a focus on the ability to mix and match knowledge, borrow and adapt, and employ multiple methods of problem solving. This becomes more critical than a refined knowledge in one area and a mastery of knowledge in one way of thinking. In the future in fact, it may be impossible to even pick out the old disciplines as one might do if they were merely "multi" or 'inter"-disciplinary I tell the GSLIS Ph.D.'s that we are moving from a microscopic view of graduate study into a telescopic view. We must be able to learn to think beyond the borders that we can see and move into entirely new universes of knowledge.

What is so exciting to me as a dean about the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program is that it takes exactly this approach to doctoral education. Yes, students may still use a particular discipline as a jumping off point, but that is all it is and once they have "jumped" they are in entirely new territory. This approach has enormous implications for an intellectually rich public university like UT-Austin to assume a critical role as a public servant and institutional citizen. The solutions to huge social issues don't fit neatly into one box (one discipline) in terms of solutions. These challenges require people who have been trained to think as "intellectual entrepreneurs." I like to break down the word "entrepreneurs" as first (entre) takers (preneurs). This is the chance for our university, indeed the university in our society, to seize its position as a leader within the context of the greater social whole--to look at things from a new perspective as "first takers."

Dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science

I can't help but feel mostly a surge of pleasure and relief in the face of [the language of intellectual entrepreneurship]--a boldly generative surge. A scene made to manifest the forces and tensions of something emergent. It makes a site in which things can come into play both to see what they are (my interest) and see what can be done with them in particular moves (programs, experiments). I appreciate the opening of a space in which faculty and students might begin to imagine what they could do that's quite different but not impossible. It also opens a space for now unspoken but weighty and felt public debate, drawing the university into public life in that critically important way too (and making it more vital in itself). Really important to that effort is the move to turn received wisdoms (and reified, couch-potato forms of logic and critique) on their head.

-Professor of Anthropology

One simply cannot speak of the oldest strain in the self-conscious intellectual forward leap of 5th century Greece without thinking of a form of adult education closely linked to practical success. In our contemporary society the walls between the university and the world of work are being radically reformulated. (See the cover story in the new Atlantic Monthly ) Intellectual Entrepreneurship seeks to reclaim for the contemporary world the oldest strain in our common intellectual tradition--the need for thought and reflection in the midst of the world of action. As the experiment of the original Greek teachers of practical affairs demonstrated, and as Plato demonstrated through his reflections on these very themes, some of the deepest problems of thought emerge from the affairs of practical life. When one brings together the demands for action and the equally unrelenting demands for reflection characteristic of the new electronic and global marketplace the term "intellectual entrepreneur" describes a new form of union between the academy and the world and between the academy and its own deepest traditions.

-Professor of Rhetoric

Intellectual Entrepreneurship is a way to take our concerns and integrate them into community life and also find ways of validating what is done to what are now the intramural and extramural segments of our culture. And the name is the thing. [Intellectual Entrepreneurship] is a way to integrate the culture of the university and the culture of non-university.

My own simple belief is that a true education gives an individual ways of seeing and analyzing the world, past and present, with honest clarity and the tools and confidence to devise solutions to problems and to improve upon the status quo. It also gives one self-understanding and a realistic assessment of one's own native talents and acquired abilities, without imposing inhibiting or artificial restraints. Intellectual entrepreneurship then for me means simply being able to grasp the realities of any situation and being able to identify what is being done, what should be done, and how to do or help others to do what should be done. Such intellectual qualities can and should be combined with any area(s) of technical or career specialization. With this kind of education, one's initial response will always be "How can I get in on helping with that?" rather than "I am an X, and I think this requires a Y and a Z." Obviously we are talking about some basic tools here: reading, listening, speaking, writing, and generally communicating, and doing all those effectively.

-Professor of Classics

I found the following particularly meaningful: "What is critical is not only that these people innovated, but that they innovated because they saw an opportunity to create something valuable, to bring people together in a synergistic way (typically not done in academic settings), and that they were motivated by deep intellectual and social commitments. In other words, entrepreneurship in the sense that we mean it is about not only holding values, critiquing based on those values, but also being willing to act on those values and make an example of one's self."

I like the idea of emphasizing that intellectual engagement can and should go beyond the walls of the academy. That's something I deeply believe and something I act on. The concept of intellectual entrepreneurship can encourage folks to think about the various ways they can do that.

-Professor of American Studies

I have often thought about successful scholarly work as intellectual entrepreneurship and have talked about the analogy between that and entrepreneurial activities in the business sector to my students. Coming up with good ideas, finding good problems to work on, attracting students, securing resources needed to conduct research, disseminating findings--- all of that has strong entrepreneurial components. And, our most successful colleagues are often the ones who do that sort of thing particularly well.

-Professor and Chair of Psychology

I'm all for bridging the theory--practice divide that is conventionally assumed, and "Intellectual Entrepreneurship" is definitely energetic. Its connotations are of fresh initiative rather than stale duty, which is just the sort of thing we want to encourage. If academics resist taking risks and taking responsibility, in the tradition of economic entrepreneurs, we are asking to be marginalized and deserve the dismissals as irrelevant that we so often hear.

-Professor of Philosophy

Intellectual Entrepreneurship is an important concept. It will get many people really activated. I wrote a "Tooling Up" column for Science's Next Wave about Entrepreneurship (both big "E" Entrepreneurship as well as little "e" entrepreneurship). Many young scholars get the idea right away - and there are a great many resources already formulated for entrepreneurs that might be applicable to young scholars.

-Physics and Advanced Technologies Directorate, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Intellectual Entrepreneurship suggests that graduate students are entrepreneurs--that we own our intellectual development and we can use it well beyond the university walls. Professional development implies that students are learning how to find jobs, and that's clearly not the mission of intellectual entrepreneurship. Rather, intellectual entrepreneurship is designed to let students own their education and to see the widest context possible to put what they've learned to use while here and after they leave UT.

-Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology

I think "intellectual entrepreneurship" is exactly right: in fact, I describe academic life to others outside of the academy in precisely that language: the successful academic creates a body of work that distinguishes that same scholar from the others by reputation, much as a brand name or particular product distinguishes a category of goods. There is risk taking and there is creation. But I make no immediate association with capitalism, since an entrepreneur (see enterprise) is simply one who undertakes some project and bears the risk. An artist or film producer could be an entrepreneur, not just the small businessman. Risk taking by an academic could be within the scientific lab, within the concert hall, or in the pages of a manuscript.

-Professor of Political Science

I like the name Intellectual Entrepreneurship not only because of the link it suggests between intellectual pur suits and entrepreneurship, but also because to me the term "entrepreneurship" implies self-initiative and what better way to describe a graduate program?

-Professor of Finance

In the theatre, very much a business although not always a profitable one, all the principles of entrepreneurship come into play; knowledge, skill in techniques, courage to grasp opportunity, and the perseverance to see the enterprise through. To have one or two of these virtues will not do; only those who have them all reach success. Academics in the theatre achieve success along two different paths. On the one hand, we as accomplished actors, designers, directors, and playwrights, produce a synergy in productions on the stage; in these, our individual artistic knowledge and skill combines with those of colleagues to create a sum greater than any one part and we nurture our students working with us. On the other, theatre historians and critics study productiosn for what they teach us, not only about forms and styles of art, but also about being human. We cannot do this, however, without working closely with scholars in other relevant fields of research, a task that requires of us a large investment in time and energy. After all, achieving expertise in one field is the best most of us can do; fine actors are not equally fine as playwrights, nor playwrights fine directors, nor directors fine actors. It is even rarer to find theatre folks with expertise in other arts and humanities. We need to learn how to capitalize on one another's expertise to enhance our own; theatre folk are usually good at that among themselves. We are no so good at that with scholars from other disciplines, but surely with the proper will, we can improve. When we invest wisely, achieve synergy among scholars in all relevant fields, we will all accrue substantial returns.

Intellectual entrepreneurship may be metaphor, but making it concrete in our research and production pays off as handsomely in the arts as it does in business.

-Professor of Theatre

The successful entrepreneur is an innovator with access to capital; Intellectual entrepreneurship fuels innovation with human capital. Profits are not always measured in dollars. It is impossible to define success without specifying a value system. In a curved space, the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line.

-Doctoral Candidate, Astronomy

I like the term "intellectual entrepreneurship" because it suggests taking risks with one's ideas. As graduate students we're asked to pay our dues, to situate ourselves within a field by studying previous work. However, to distinguish our scholarship and contribute something meaningful to the Academy or society-at-large, we must take the work much further. We're not here to simply imbibe great ideas and develop the skills necessary to recite them. Rather, we're here to raise difficult questions and pursue lines of inquiry that take us "outside the box" of convention. This requires taking risks on a daily basis, confronting socially constructed "facts" that the mainstream embraces as self-evident truths, but which the intellectual regards with skepticism. We may fail, and discover that there was wisdom in a particular convention after all, but consider the importance of challenging cliches and experimenting with innovative ideas. If not for intellectual entrepreneurs we might still think of the Earth as a flat surface at the center of the universe.

-Doctoral Candidate, English

The Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program has the potential to model a new method of problem-solving for communities and institutions. Through action-oriented learning, students will empower themselves and their communities to seek creative solutions. The power of entrepreneurial thinking has transformed the United States and the world, and by teaching this mindset, students will be better prepared to serve their communities in whatever field they choose.

-Executive Director of the Austin Idea Network