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The importance of creating an inclusive space for entrepreneurs in Higher Education

An interview with Dr. Emad Rahim, Fulbright Specialist and Kotouc Endowed Chair at Bellevue University

We had the pleasure of having Dr. Emad Rahim visit RIT Kosovo for the past three weeks in November as our Fulbright Specialist.  While on campus, Dr. Rahim helped us conduct research on MBA trends and developed a strategy for new degree program development.  He also participated in our Global Entrepreneurship Week by being a panelist to discuss the challenges of becoming an entrepreneur. He was joined by three RIT Kosovo (A.U.K) Alumni that shared their personal experiences at each stage of their start-up journey and weigh in on both the technical, business and philosophical considerations of starting a company. The focus of this interview is on entrepreneurship, more specifically how to foster an environment that promotes student startups on campus.

You have done a lot of work in helping to grow entrepreneurship awareness at different universities and communities.  Are there any special secrets to your success?

I don’t think so. There was nothing special that I did to help grow the entrepreneurship ecosystem. The only thing I did and continue to do, is support others on their ideas and help them make that idea into a reality.  I find the subject of entrepreneurship, especially working with student startup teams exciting. There is a level of energy, passion and creativity that young entrepreneurs possess that I find contagious. I just love being around that energy and feed off their drive. When other faculty and students on campus experience this same feeling, they have no choice but to support it and be part of it.

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What can I do to foster this type of engagement on my campus and community?  

It is important to get other people to buy into your vision and get them to take ownership over the vision and become your champions. You cannot do it alone. I use the term “playing nice in the sandbox” a lot in my presentations. We have to see the college campus and community as this big entrepreneurship sandbox where people may not always want to share their toys and play together.  There will be cliques in the sandbox, bullies and jocks. But, there will also be influencers, leaders, supporters, team players and tons of creative kids with amazing imaginations. Now what is outside of the sandbox? We see the parents of these kids rights? It’s the parents job to foster an environment where everyone in the sandbox plays nice with each other and make these kids feel safe.   Now let’s transfer that same perspective to our college campus or community sandbox. You will have to create an environment where people are excited about entrepreneurship, feel safe to share their ideas, have the right people, resources and tools in place, a clear vision and message to share and a team of people to help promote and spread the excitement around the campus and community. They need to see the benefits, experience the excitement and understand your purpose. If you do this right, you will have the coolest sandbox on the playground that everyone wants to play in.

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I really like the idea of a sandbox. I know that you were a part of the Syracuse Student Sandbox at Syracuse University. What did you learn from your work there and how can others apply it on their college campus or community?

I learned how transformational entrepreneurship can be to students and faculty. The student sandbox started out as a Syracuse University and Kauffman Foundation initiative that quickly grew into a university-wide collaboration between dozens of schools in Upstate New York and business incubators.  Students, faculty and administrators from several different community colleges and other institutions got involved to promote entrepreneurship on their campuses.  On any given night at the Syracuse Technology Garden where the Student Sandbox was housed, you will see dozens of student startup teams and faculty from various institutions representing their work and sharing lessons learned and ideas, and discussing ways they can collaborate.  There were also plenty of business plan competitions, demo presentations, conferences and workshops held open to everyone. I get excited just thinking about the startup weekends and business pitches that I use to be part of. I think everyone that is interested in growing entrepreneurship on their campus needs to visit the Technology Garden and the Student Sandbox. You will be hooked!

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Here are a few radio podcast interviews and presentations where Dr. Emad Rahim shares these same perspectives on entrepreneurship. All of these podcast can be downloaded.

How to Have Balance with Emad Rahim - Doubt the Doubts: http://bit.ly/1avHu7J

Marketing and Building a Brand Short on Cash - Entrepreneur Podcast Network: http://bit.ly/17QAP4C

Pitching your business idea to a potential investor - Entrepreneur Podcast Network: http://bit.ly/1qCoSsp

Inspiration for the Nation – Power AM620 (Radio): http://bit.ly/1k4j9Ir

Visit his SoundCloud for more Entrepreneurship yips: https://soundcloud.com/emad-rahim

Bio: Dr. Emad Rahim is an award-winning author, educator, entrepreneur, Fulbright Specialist and TEDx speaker. His story was turned into the short documentary “Against the Odds,” a 2016 Bronze Award Winner  at the F.A.M.E.'US International Film Festival and adapted into a Syracuse Stage theater production titled ‘Tales from the Salt City,’ which is an extension of the acclaimed Undesirable Elements series written by celebrated playwright and Presidential National Medals of Arts Award recipient, Ping Chong. He has been featured in the Huffington Post, Forbes Magazine, IntelligentHQ, VICE, Rutgers’ The Humanist and CEO Magazine. He authored Resilience: From Killing Fields to Boardroom and co-authored The Inclusive Leader: An Applied Approach to Diversity, Change, and Management.  Dr. Rahim currently serves as the Kotouc Family Endowed Chair and Professor at Bellevue University, and Training Consultant at Cornell University. 

Follow him on

Twitter: @DrEmadRahim

Instagram: @dremadrahim

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/erahim

Facebook Fanpage: https://hr-hr.facebook.com/emad.rahim/

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