By Jelani Odlum
The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property is proud to announce our latest grant to Purdue University’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. We have committed $20,000 to Purdue to support their infusion of educational materials on intellectual property (IP) rights into curriculum, content, and programming to advance greater IP awareness and understanding for their entrepreneurship and invention community.
Dr. Nathalie Duval-Couetil, the director of the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program and associate director of the Burton D. Morgan Center is serving as faculty lead for the project. As the head of Purdue’s cross-campus entrepreneurship program, she has created programming focused on entrepreneurship fundamentals, venture development, technology commercialization, strategic planning, and women and leadership.
Under her leadership, the program has also won the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education Model Program Award from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE), the Deshpande Award for Excellence in Curriculum Innovation in Entrepreneurship, and became ranked among the Princeton Top 50 Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Programs.
In our Q&A, Dr. Duval-Couetil covers on-campus entrepreneurship and educating students on patents and campus IP policy.
You launched Purdue’s award-winning multidisciplinary undergraduate entrepreneurship program, which enrolls over 2,000 students per year and is one of the nation’s top-ranked programs. What part of the entrepreneurship program are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of our ability to scale the program and truly do it across disciplines. When we launched Purdue’s Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, I reached out to several universities with multidisciplinary programs to understand barriers and challenges they faced. Many of the comments I heard had to do with working across academic disciplines, whether it had to do with recruiting students or getting funding to support programs. This feedback was extremely helpful as we made decisions necessary to grow the program. At the time, Purdue was embarking on a significant movement to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and research called Discovery Park, and we benefited from this as well.
How do you personally define success in entrepreneurship education?
I define success in entrepreneurship education in a number of ways. From the student perspective, success is when the program contributed to their professional development, job search, or motivation to become an entrepreneur. What we hear from students is that they love being in a classroom with diverse students, they find the applied coursework to be very useful, and benefit greatly from their interactions with instructors and speakers. Many credit the program with helping them get jobs in companies large and small. From a program perspective, I’ve had great satisfaction with building an administrative and teaching team, composed of fabulous individuals and professionals who have a passion for making a positive personal and professional impact on Purdue students.
What place do you feel intellectual property (IP) currently has, and ideally should have, in the entrepreneurship curriculum?
Students need to understand intellectual property protection and Purdue’s IP policies, particularly since so many are in science and engineering fields. When we started the program, undergraduate students were basically covered under the general university policy. It quickly became clear that we would be stifling innovation if we did not make it clear to students that anything they invented as part of a class would be their own. We eventually got this policy clarified, which was a great relief to students. Even if most are far from investing in a patent, the more they can learn about it before they need it, the better!
What are the most frequently asked IP related questions you hear from both students and faculty on campus?
They are most concerned with what happens if they invent something at Purdue and the cost of a patent. A challenge with teaching IP is that it is far more interesting for those who have real inventions they want to protect and who are interested in all the associated procedures and nuances. Those with longer term interests in IP can be far less engaged.
In what ways have you noticed that the COVID-19 era has affected students’ views on pursuing entrepreneurial ventures, or the types of ventures that they might pursue?
The jury is still out on this. We still have very strong demand for our courses which tells us that there is still interest. Due to COVID-19, we transformed our summer courses into online courses, and that more than doubled our enrollment, which is a great sign. It will take at least a year or two to see the effect of COVID on their entrepreneurial pursuits.
There is a lot of discourse currently in the IP, invention, and entrepreneurship fields about the need for greater diversity in American innovation, including the patent-holder gender gap, and issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) throughout the system. Do you have any advice to share with other educators interested in promoting more inclusivity in their classrooms and programs?
This is a big topic and one I have been interested in for many years from a teaching and research perspective. In 2008, we even created a Women and Leadership course as part of the entrepreneurship program as a way to draw attention to the topic. There are a few things we have done over the years in addition to the course. First, we actively encouraged academic advisors to send us diverse students since many may have biases about who might go on to become entrepreneurs. Second, we have tried to diversify our teaching team. And third, we explicitly remind instructors to show diverse representations of entrepreneurship in the classroom. This means diversifying speakers and the examples of entrepreneurs they discuss in the classroom.
What book, film, TV show, or podcast recommendation would you share to inspire innovative students and faculty looking to make an impact?
There are so many… I like How I Built This and Side Hustle School for podcasts focused on entrepreneurship. However, to be an entrepreneur and innovator, students should read, watch, and listen to shows and books on topics besides entrepreneurship. They should remain curious about technology, politics, culture, and even psychology to better understand themselves, others, and the trends in the world that will result in entrepreneurial opportunities.
The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property, an initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, provides access to empowering IP education for budding inventors and entrepreneurs. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon Dr. Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson. To learn more, visit 20mm.org.