Faculty entrepreneurs: Fund seekers, experts for hire and faculty visionaries

Lynn Ortale, University of Pennsylvania


This exploratory study focused on the entrepreneurial culture of 100 faculty at five private, religiously affiliated institutions with strong teaching missions. The departments that participated in the study were biology, chemistry, economics and sociology. These departments were chosen due to the opportunities present in these specific disciplines for entrepreneurial activity. There is minimal research in the area of faculty entrepreneurial activity. This study offers a foundation to begin to understand the faculty entrepreneurial culture. This study provides three primary findings: faculty reaction to the term entrepreneur in relationship to the work of faculty; distinguishing characteristics associated with faculty entrepreneurs; and institutional policies most important to faculty entrepreneurs. The term entrepreneur in relationship to faculty activity denoted negative images for most faculty. Faculty bristled at the idea of being an entrepreneur. Faculty believed that the term entrepreneur shook the very fiber of what it meant to be an academician. The key finding of this study reveals that the faculty entrepreneurs possess common distinguishing characteristics and can be grouped into three distinct categories: Fund Seekers, Experts for Hire, and Faculty Visionaries. Fund Seekers secured external funding through sponsored research grants from federal agencies and/or private foundations. The common characteristics of Fund Seekers included persistence, exceptional writing skills, and attention to detail. Experts for Hire participated in consulting opportunities, expert witness testimony, paid seminars, and contracted papers. The key characteristics cited for this type of faculty entrepreneur were strong communications skills and an ability to build and cultivate relationships. Faculty Visionaries managed research centers or institutes, assisted in start up companies, and/or secured patents. Faculty Visionaries were creative, politically savvy, and trail blazers. A review of institutional policies demonstrated that the policies of central importance to faculty entrepreneurs included indirect cost recovery rates and teaching loads. This study provides a solid foundation to understand a rapidly growing phenomenon among faculty and within institutions, as well as provides direction as how to best stay on the cutting edge of the fast moving future of higher education. This study combined with future studies will form a more vivid picture of the entrepreneurial landscape.

Subject Area

Higher education

Recommended Citation

Ortale, Lynn, "Faculty entrepreneurs: Fund seekers, experts for hire and faculty visionaries" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9965536.