Course Engages Students to Challenge Assumptions about Entrepreneurship

A hidden gem in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management’s Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises department, the undergraduate and master’s level elective course, Minority and Woman’s Entrepreneurship: Race, Gender and Entrepreneurial Opportunity, provides a bird’s eye view of entrepreneurship not usually studied. Offered at least once a year, and perhaps more in the future, the class is open to all Syracuse University students, and no entrepreneurship experience is necessary.

The course catalog description says the course “discusses race, gender and ethnicity as factors that impact entrepreneurship, including the theoretical underpinnings of minority and women’s entrepreneurship and their opportunities, challenges and strategies to venture formation.” In short, it provides a way for students to learn about entrepreneurship through the lens of individuals from marginalized populations.

“Readings, assignments and guest speakers cover practical and theoretical information on topics ranging from propensity and motivation to performance and growth strategies,” says El-Java Abdul-Qadir, ’98 (A&S), G ’01 (SoE/A&S), director of the South Side Innovation Center (SSIC) and adjunct professor who teaches the course. “Our conceptualization of traditionally marginalized populations include ethnic and racial minorities, women, immigrants and refugees, individuals with disabilities and veterans. We also discuss the impact of socio-economic status, cross-sectionality, and socio-political factors that impact challenges and opportunities entrepreneurs face in the contemporary global economy.”

Abdul-Qadir draws on his firsthand experience from the clients with whom the SSIC works, many of whom fall into one of those categories. In 2020, these entrepreneurs faced challenges never before seen with the impact of a pandemic on their small businesses and start-ups. Many have had to make major business decisions very quickly — with or without the necessary resources and funding. Creativity and innovation, as well as persistence are needed, according to Abdul-Qadir, and it’s not always easy to reflect on what these individuals are going through.

“This course is unique because it provides a good mix of practical and theoretical content while engaging students to challenge their assumptions about entrepreneurship in a manner that is both critical and empowering,” he says. 

Abdul-Qadir believes this course is ideal for the University’s diversity and inclusion efforts because it’s designed to provide a clear sense of historical and ideological perspectives appropriate to the phenomenon of entrepreneurship as it pertains to individuals from marginalized populations. In fact, the course has recently been approved as part of the University’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) initiative.

Learn more about the Whitman School’s entrepreneurship program.