Volker Inspires the Entrepreneurial Mindset in the Classroom, across Disciplines, & in the Community
Feb. 15, 2017
Dr. John Volker's doorway is open but blocked by a human size cutout of a zombie devouring someone's brain and warns, "Don't make me get out my red pen." Dr. Volker wears a bow tie and sits underneath model airplanes that hang from the ceiling of his office. Everywhere you look there's a creative expression. He is a professor in the College of Business and developed the minor in Entrepreneurship for APSU. Most recently, he was a recipient of the Golden Gov Award for "Most Creative Lecturer" in 2015-2016.
"I'm about Entrepreneurship. I'm about creativity. Those are the two passions that drive me," Dr. Volker says. "I enjoy doing it in a college of business because entrepreneurship is usually at home in a college of business but creativity isn't usually associated with a college of business. What I've set as my life's mission educationally is to help students develop what's called an entrepreneurial mindset."
The entrepreneurial mindset is mentality and way of life that includes not being afraid of failure, to question and probe, and in the words of Dr. Volker "take the creativity that they have and exercise, grow it, and apply it to business solutions." Everything Volker does signifies grabbing life and enjoying it, understanding it, and making the world better with ideas. He daily drives his Spyder motorcycle to campus. He notices the community on his way to Austin Peay. He is involved in that community and looks ahead to the possibilities in the future. This is evident in his actions. "I'm most excited about seeing the lightbulb go off for a student when they realize that they can take charge of their own future," Volker says. "Through doing things they love or their desire to change the world, they can actually make some things really happen. That's exciting. It's very rewarding."
He discusses a student in his Venturing Course. Amber Bosworth, a senior, has progressed all the way through the Entrepreneurship minor and will graduate in May 2017. Bosworth has developed a new golf skirt and created a prototype during Volker's class. "She's working with a local seamstress, learning how to make a pattern," Volker says. "Amber has a story of struggle and overcoming obstacles, and I know she will make this business venture happen. I fully expect to see Bozzy skirts out there."
Volker appreciates the ways in which collaboration, community, creativity, and research merge in the business world. For example, recently he has been meeting with the Clarksville Makers Group and strives to partner with them to create a workshop for both students and the community members to work on new projects and prototypes. The Clarksville Makers Group is composed of community members who make anything from computer programs to machine prototypes. "I'm really about hands-on and practicality to business," Volker says.
One of Volker's main interests throughout his academic career has been Entrepreneurship across campus. "Campuses tend to be little silos, and Entrepreneurship really isn't owned by business. So much of it is business, of course, but it involves the creativity and that's where other disciplines can come in." In connection with the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts, Volker designed a course called "Funding Artistic Endeavors" which he currently teaches and describes as "Entrepreneurship for the artist."
The course attracts a wide variety of students who want to use another major as a way to own their own business. His students this semester range from a student who wants to work as a commercial photographer to an oboist who wants practice a certain type of therapy, from a paper-maker with an online business goal to a fine arts sculptor. The students have created a business model canvas and will pitch their business ideas to faculty at the end of the semester. This course is open to all majors without any business course prerequisites needed.
While the College of Business has offered courses in Entrepreneurship for years, about a year and a half ago, Volker had the opportunity to develop the Entrepreneurship minor, which is designed to lead students through the process of creating your business. It begins with an entrepreneurship course. Volker talks to his students in this course about crowd funding, social media campaigns, and more. Next, students in the minor take a business modeling course, where "students really explore the canvas of the business model as a graphical way to explore your business," Volker says. Then, students enroll in a creativity course and finally, a venturing course. Students finish with electives.
"I really hope that my enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and creativity is contagious. And, I can get people fired up about it. Having a space for creativity is where innovation happens," Volker says.
Dr. Volker's office is located at Kimbrough 229. Phone 931-221-7738. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
--- By Shana Thornton, Thorncraft Publishing, www.thorncraftpublishing.com