By Carter Crockett
Entrepreneurship, simply put, is the pursuit of an opportunity—despite few resources and many risks. It used to be deemed an activity for a select few, but now it has “gone mainstream.” Today, entrepreneurship is trumpeted as an ideal that unifies many of the things that organizations value highly: grassroots passion, creativity, uncommon vision, courage and resourcefulness. Today, it seems everyone wants to be more entrepreneurial: businesses, schools, missionaries, hospitals, government agencies—and yes, Christian liberal arts colleges like Gordon.
Gordon is the first of the leading Christian liberal arts schools to create a Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. As a former Westmont College faculty member, I never thought I’d see this day come. As an entrepreneur myself, both in the high-tech sector and in the social enterprise sector, I’m thrilled to be a part of this bold new step at Gordon. I hope to see future STILLPOINT editions celebrating organizations launched by students inspired and equipped by this new Center.
The rich soil of the liberal arts context is ideal for grounding one’s faith and developing deep convictions. The Center seeks to animate those convictions.
At MIT, entrepreneurship often focuses on commercial applications: for instance, nanoparticle vaccines. Entrepreneurs at a vocational school may establish an auto repair shop. At Gordon, entrepreneurship should be different. The liberal arts tradition develops broadly-educated people, not narrowly- defined skills. Gordon nurtures deep conviction, and the Center seeks to animate those convictions.
Gordon students dig deep. The liberal arts experience introduces them to many disciplines. This helps them avoid a common pitfall: oversimplifying complex issues by viewing them through a single lens. The College encourages students to think creatively about how to address the challenges of a broken world. The rich soil of the liberal arts context is ideal for grounding one’s faith and developing deep convictions. Our students are firmly planted and richly nurtured in ways no longer common in higher education.
Gordon students reach out. Deep convictions should not remain underground. Rich soil should lead to growth; it should bear fruit. Gordon engages students in real-world challenges through coursework, leadership initiatives, service projects, Chapel, international missions, and experiential learning opportunities. People who are firmly planted and deeply rooted can reach further to care for others. A tree with deep roots can support more and bigger branches. Nurtured in this context, it is not surprising that Gordon students want to be agents of transformation, redemption and change.
Students should start something. Creative endeavor complements and extends the core of the liberal arts in important and relevant ways. Entrepreneurship offers one path for living out deep convictions; it is inherently practical, personal and cross-disciplinary. Clearly, not every liberal arts student is an entrepreneur, yet more can be done to encourage students to put ideas to flight and create their own opportunities. This is one reason the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership is creating a new cross-department minor and will host a campus-wide Social Venture Challenge this April.
Entrepreneurship is alive and well at Gordon, even if it hasn’t been celebrated as such to date. The La Vida Center for Outdoor Education and Leadership is a venture Rich Obenschain (director of Outdoor Education) began bootstrapping over 35 years ago. David Lee (physics) used his sabbatical last year to serve as president and chief technology officer for a bulk metallic glass start-up in California. Museum studies specialist David Goss ’74 (history faculty) partnered with Kristina Wacome-Stevick ’98 to launch Gordon’s historical theater troupe History Alive! which regularly performs at the Old Town Hall on a vibrant pedestrian mall in downtown Salem, Massachusetts. Anita Coco (Center for Technology Services) invented and sells Fire Drops throat lozenges—and keeps a file of other ideas near her desk. Return Design—which created Fire Drops’ retail packaging—is the in-house design agency at Gordon started by Tim Ferguson Sauder (Creative Director) that regularly assists non-profits and worthy causes. Warren Shumate (Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach) has launched Origin Lacrosse, a website assisting young lacrosse athletes with skills training (and soon gear) in the off-season.
Entrepreneurship offers one path for living out deep convictions; it is inherently practical, personal, cross-disciplinary and relevant.
A. J. Gordon Scholars have generated a whole shelf-full of project plans over the years; one led to the 2011 creation of the student-run Scot Radio station. Notable entrepreneurs among recent graduates include Dan Castelline ’11, who founded Concord Button Downs, a boutique fashion startup specializing in fine shirts for men. Sam Winslow ’13 started a shoe company in Gloucester that aims to fund clean water sources in Africa. The list goes on: Gordon IN Lynn, Gordon IN Orvieto, and a host of other once-tentative, once-new initiatives that have become distinctive components of what we love about Gordon College today.
For any liberal arts community that seeks to elevate its contribution to the world, entrepreneurship has an important role to play. That Gordon is already a fairly innovative place is a tribute to Gordon’s long-standing ethos of open-mindedness, and its commitment to empowering students, faculty and staff to make things happen. Gordon’s liberal arts community provides the optimal context for students seeking to dig deep, reach out, and start up.
Carter Crockett, Ph.D., has taught entrepreneurs on three continents. A practitioner who prefers to lead by example, he has had a varied career ranging from high-tech marketing in Seattle
to socially-motivated management consulting in Rwanda. He is an alumnus of Westmont College, where he later taught economics and business. Dr. Crockett moved with his family from Rwanda to Wenham this summer to become the founding director of Gordon College’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL).
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