Education faculty member working to improve diversity in entrepreneurship

December 10, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Since Eric Barron became Penn State's president in 2014, he has made economic development and student career success a University priority. Betsy Campbell, a faculty member in the Penn State College of Education, is dedicated to building on that commitment by working to diversify the face of entrepreneurship.

Today most major universities have at least one accelerator program. But despite their availability, research suggests that accelerators have not changed the demographics of entrepreneurship. Founders of high-tech, high-growth ventures still tend to be white, male and mostly urban and young.

Making entrepreneurship education a viable option for everyone requires more than the availability of accelerators, according to Campbell, assistant professor and research associate in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Campbell believes diversification must be intentional, so she created what has become a nationwide initiative called The Cape at Penn State. The Cape is a community of practice that is committed to supporting people from nondominant backgrounds in contexts for learning about entrepreneurship. 

It probes the social and cultural dimensions of entrepreneurial work and entrepreneurship education to develop accelerators that can empower more people from all demographic groups to prosper in the innovation economy.

“The Cape at Penn State is an interdisciplinary initiative. Faculty affiliates come from across the University, from different schools and different campuses,” Campbell said. “While my own work is anchored in ethnomethodology and practice theory, other researchers will draw on different approaches.”

The Cape at Penn State also includes facilitators of accelerators, and the community of practice is growing.

“The scholars and the practitioners are united in a shared desire to bridge the research-practice gap,” Campbell said. “Together, we frame arcs of inquiry based on the real concerns of people working in accelerators, and the scholars investigate these topics in rigorous ways.” 

She said the work of The Cape at Penn State includes scholarly research, community development and tool creation for teachers, aspiring entrepreneurs, young people and cultural influencers, including journalists, filmmakers and policymakers.

“Given Penn State’s commitment to entrepreneurship under President Barron, the College of Education is uniquely positioned to consider issues of diversity and inclusion in accelerators and other informal contexts for entrepreneurship education,” Campbell said.

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Last Updated September 03, 2020