As Director of the Derby Entrepreneurship Center at Tufts University, Elaine Chen leads a thriving hub for everything entrepreneurial. She overtime programming overtime to lower the barriers to becoming an entrepreneur, whether in the traditional sense of leading a startup or in the broader sense of innovating in all areas. doing. The website contains hundreds of articles for self-study. The program includes a jumbo cafe workshop, alumni networking events, a $ 100,000 new venture competition, and a summer toughs venture accelerator program for students, recent graduates, and toughs community members.
The Center teaches students how to combine knowledge and curiosity to take the first steps to make changes related to their passion, and the Cummings family of entrepreneurial practices. Chen, who teaches innovation and entrepreneurship as a professor, said.
Chen entered Tufts University from MIT in the fall of 2020. There she was a senior lecturer and home entrepreneur at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. A MIT graduate with two degrees in mechanical engineering, she began her career in a technical startup. There, innovation skills played a leading role in engineering and product management at the VP level of startups such as Rethink Robotics, Zeo, Zeemote and SensAble Technologies. She brings a number of hardware and software products to market (22 patents) and brings hardware products to market: the author of Wild Ride Navigating from Concept to Mass Production.
Tufts University recently met Chen on what it means to be an entrepreneur today and how Tufts University helps students develop skills and ideas to guide change. talked.
Tufts Now: 2021 seems to have been a very important year for the center. It was given a new name thanks to a generous gift from the former director and became the new home of the Joyce Cummings Center. Does this represent a new era of entrepreneurship at Tufts University?
Elaine Chen: It’s an exciting time now. Our identity is more prominent, our location is closer to the university hub, and our aspirations are growing. Our ambition for the center is to redefine the term entrepreneurship on and off campus so that everyone feels accessible to entrepreneurship.
I would like to provide a touchpoint, or some kind of experience in entrepreneurship education, to anyone who wants it. In the summer of 2022, we will contact high school students. I started a pre-university program with the idea that I could expand the impact on the community. We will also contact graduate students enrolled in the housing program. We continue to serve our graduates and want to stay in touch with them throughout their careers. Forty years from now, I want you to go back to Tufts and talk!
Our ambition is simple: no matter what your needs are, what your interests are, and what time zone you are in, we are here to support you.
How has the pandemic changed the focus of the entrepreneurial world? Does it bring new challenges, new opportunities? of course! The pandemic demonstrates the importance of having an entrepreneurial spirit and skill set. It emphasizes the need to adapt to rapidly and rapidly changing conditions on your feet. You can throw a curve ball just as you think things are back to normal. Well, if you have an entrepreneurial way of seeing the world, it’s just another day. You just have to find a way to move forward every day.
Over the past year and a half, we have seen many new companies. Anyone who tried home fitness worked really well.I know someone who was investigating the difficulty of people getting PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] Then they have just started a business to help people get a PPP loan.
I think the crisis has restructured not only how we think about business, but how we do business. If you are an entrepreneur, you can find opportunities to bring solutions where others may only see frustration and confusion.
What is your advice on becoming an entrepreneur in this environment?
Pandemics can be very disturbing. Many people are really stressed. It can be seen in the classroom. You can see that in conversations with students.
My message to them is: You got this. You can understand how to move forward. do not be afraid.
There is a quote from [Canadian Prime Minister] I like Justin Trudeau from the World Economic Forum a few years ago. He said the pace of change wasn’t that fast, but it’s never going to be this slow. It just keeps moving and that’s a good thing. It’s fun. Ambitious innovators and entrepreneurs need to understand it and accept the idea that they can believe in themselves.
How do you define entrepreneurship?
When most people think of entrepreneurs, they think of people like Elon Musk [CEO of Tesla and SpaceX] And they say, well, it’s not me. It doesn’t matter to me. And when they think about entrepreneurship, they think about startups. But it is a very narrow and overly limited definition of the words entrepreneur and entrepreneurship.
For me, that’s not the only entrepreneurial spirit. Entrepreneurship is about thinking and working. A combination of that idea and skill set.
In terms of thinking, it’s innate to everyone. Everyone knows how to learn. The belief that you can understand things along the way. You can repeat until you have a suitable solution. That means you don’t think too much, paralyze your analysis, or think you can make a perfect plan. It’s not how the world works.
In terms of skill sets, you need to know how to do primary market research and secondary market research. You need to know how to run a digital marketing campaign and organize a sales force. You need to know how to calculate your unit economics. These are the skills that are taught. And when they are combined with the right mindset, you are on your way to becoming an entrepreneur.
Our job as an educator is to give access to learning ideas and skill sets. We can teach students how to repeat the entrepreneurial process, and if they don’t feel the idea first, they learn it. They can learn how to be flexible and adaptable.
With regard to its educational notes, the Center’s undergraduate program today attracts more than 700 students, and entrepreneurial minors are one of the best options for undergraduates. Recently, you also created an entrepreneurial spirit for social impact miners at Tisch College. How do you feel about what students want from entrepreneurial research?
Being in the classroom with them is always exciting. I teach Entrepreneurship 101. Currently, my student population is 70% liberal arts, 20% engineering, and a combination of School of the Fine Arts and students from other schools.
What I am observing is that Tufts University students have a lot of thirst for change. They say: I want to make a difference. They are interested in sustainability, food waste reduction and clothing waste reduction. They are interested in racial injustice, diversity, and civil discourse.
What I hear most often is how to get started. That may seem overwhelming. But given a mindset and skill set, you can think about what you can understand and where you have the ability to make a difference at your level. Everyone has an agency to make small, medium, or big changes.
Much of the innovation and entrepreneurial content we offer gives students a way to connect their knowledge and curiosity to take the first step in making changes related to their passion. is teaching. They don’t have to have an idea of where to start. We explore what entrepreneurship means to them and provide them with several different ways to discover what they can actually do.
Where are the leaders who create entrepreneurial ideas and ventures?
Tufts are unique in that they do not have a business school, but there are some areas where the university itself is a sort leader. No one else has the strengths that toughs have around social impact. Tufts University is also particularly strong in the fields of health care and life sciences, as it has four vocational schools in healthcare science.
Finally, the big picture question: why is an entrepreneurial center important to toughs?
I strongly feel the importance of entrepreneurial thinking. Basically, it’s a great life skill that can benefit anyone, so it can amplify your experience of everything you choose to study here in Tufts. It’s a university-wide resource about discovering what you can do, and sometimes it may surprise you!
I can relate it to my career. For a long time I thought: I have to get a job. It was always a job. Then I started to own my work experience, and I realized I could make a difference. I was able to move my life. If you need to switch, you can do that. That’s all about thinking like an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship draws power from knowing that you have an agency. How can you say no to it?
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