This is the first installment of our “Innovation Inspiration” series, which highlights higher ed professionals and institutions from across the country that dare to be different. We’re hoping that by putting a spotlight on these edupreneurs (not a typo — a phrase we use to describe higher ed entrepreneurs!), we can inspire others to transform ambition into action and delight students. After all, redesigning the student experience starts with a shift in staff mentality from “that’s the way we’ve always done it” to one that challenges the status quo, prioritizes the student, and supports innovative thinking, strategies, and technologies. If you’re interested in sharing your story with us, submit your innovation here!
When you think of entrepreneurial business schools in America, Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, immediately comes to mind. Babson has won countless awards for its prestigious entrepreneurship curriculum, which makes sense, as the college prides itself on being an educator, convener, and thought leader on “Entrepreneurship of All Kinds.” Innovation is in every fiber of Babson’s being, so it’s not surprising that they were the first school to answer our call for higher ed innovators.
I had the opportunity to chat with Wiljeana Glover, Babson’s faculty director for the Schlesinger Fund for Global Healthcare Entrepreneurship and assistant professor for the school’s Technology, Operations, and Information Management Division. (And if her current roles aren’t impressive enough, you can check out her faculty member profile on Babson’s website. Does this woman ever sleep? I’m not convinced.) Glover has been with Babson for roughly five years now, and has already made an incredible impact on campus. Some of her favorite achievements to date include setting the strategy for the Global Healthcare Entrepreneurship (GHE) program and creating an action-oriented, project-based course called “Scaling Lean Ventures” that falls within the undergraduate Operations concentration.
For background, the Schlesinger Fund for Global Healthcare Entrepreneurship approaches the world’s biggest health challenges from an entrepreneurial angle. This program is supported by the Kletjian Foundation, whose mission is to build collaborative networks and support entrepreneurial leaders that promote health equity, and provides opportunities for Babson faculty and students to apply thought leadership and action to global health challenges.
Glover strongly believes that global health needs entrepreneurial foundations because innovative thought and strategic action can provide real solutions to real problems. Her approach is one that considers what can be done inside of the classroom, or in study abroad programs, to create a lasting impact in society. Through study abroad opportunities and fellowships, Babson students are encouraged to actually implement solutions and make changes alongside local partners, rather than simply providing recommendations. Now, that’s what I call transforming ambition into action!
However, this program didn’t evolve overnight. GHE began in 2014/2015 with a focus on case-based coursework. In its first iteration, the GHE team of faculty and staff wrote cases that highlighted initiatives in the global health space. Take Uganda’s strategic implementation of a new IT system, SQUAD, to support surgical care efforts for example. When Glover became co-director in 2016, her edupreneurial sixth sense kicked in. She thought to herself, “Cases are great, but how do we take this a step further?” And thus, in 2016, a partnership with the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) Uganda for GHE’s was born.
The Schlesinger Fund for Global Healthcare Entrepreneurship and CAMTech Uganda co-hosted the first-ever Global Surgery Hack-a-thon, where over 250 participants from more than 30 universities and organizations across Africa, North America, and Asia came together for a weekend at a local Ugandan university to collaborate with experts and create innovations with the potential to shift the global surgical paradigm for patients around the world. Eight Babson students and three faculty members participated in the hack-a-thon, and Glover acted as a mentor to one of the prize-winning teams.
Glover recalls, “Through the Global Surgery Hack-a-thon, we furthered our mission to activate entrepreneurial leaders in global health. We learned about the need for innovation first-hand from medical providers and through direct observation at hospitals. We shared our views on entrepreneurial thought and action and systems thinking in product, service, and business design. Seeing Babson students with students and professionals from Uganda and abroad co-creating clinical, social, and economic value simultaneously via interdisciplinary teams reaffirmed our commitment to partnering with organizations like CAMTech to impact healthcare and economic development worldwide.”
I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the forward-thinking work that Babson College and the GHE are contributing to higher ed, and society at large, during my conversations with Wiljeana. She is incredibly passionate about her role at Babson, as well as the students and the greater community she serves through that role — she is a true edupreneur in every sense of the word.
Do you consider yourself, or maybe even one of your colleagues in higher ed, an edupreneur? Tell us more about how you're disrupting the status quo on your campus and we'll give you a shoutout!