The Power of Partnership
Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president, Knowledge Enterprise Development, Arizona State University
At Arizona State University, we serve well over 110,000
degree-seeking students—some on campus across five metropolitan Phoenix
locations and increasingly, off campus via digital immersion programs.
Developing and delivering excellence with inclusion and diversity at
scale is a requirement across ASU, for academic and non-academic
programming alike. We are often asked how we can continue to grow our
programs with our increasing student body—nearly double in the last ten
years—especially in delivering quality entrepreneurship programming.
This is where collaboration—intensive, intentional collaboration—comes
in. At Entrepreneurship + Innovation (E+I), which I lead, we have
adopted a partnership model, both across the university and in the
greater community as well.
When we create programming, we think of the impact to the whole person, be they student, faculty, alumni or a community member. And because we couldn’t possibly have or develop topical expertise in all facets of our interactions, including being culturally responsive, technically adept and entrepreneurially savvy, we depend on our partners.
One example is working with students in Startup Village, an entrepreneurial living-learning community on the Polytechnic campus in East Mesa. We rely on the expertise of our colleagues in University Housing, Student Services, and the Technological Entrepreneurship and Management academic program, as well as an E+I staff member devoted to student outreach and engagement in entrepreneurship. We also leverage multiple resources such as various maker and creative spaces and programs such as the E+I Venture Devils program, through which we can provide mentors, training and development opportunities and tangible resources such as funding, access to legal help or prototyping facilities.
The E+I team has found that colleagues from programs ranging from Career Services and Professional Development to academic divisions such as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences share the same goal: provide high-quality, unique experiences for students.
Here are some key lessons learned in working with partners to deliver programming to students:
Create a regularized convening mechanism to foster visibility and connectivity. At ASU, we call them E+I Networkshops, and we convene twice a semester inviting all faculty and staff who work in entrepreneurship. We provide visibility to each other and to our major initiatives and resources, and we create a “marketplace” wherein colleagues can ask for support and receive support in programs, events and other needs.
Share credit. As an administrative unit, things that we do don’t always “count” toward our core metrics. For example, while bringing in external funding to support our programs is important, the type of funding may be more important to some more than us. Credit for research support, for example, always goes to the academic unit where the faculty member’s productivity is more closely aligned with research dollars. And we share credit in giving top billing to partner units in recognition as well.
Buy in to resources. One highly effective mechanism that has allowed us to extend our reach and impact is working across the university to cross-appoint staff members. We have successfully recruited, cross-appointed and shared salary costs for staff with academic units with the idea that they gain access to the full suite of programs and services such as marketing and events, as well with non-academic units enabling staff to maintain professional development within one area while pursuing entrepreneurial development with E+I.
Check first. Myriad resources abound; we’ve made it a point to seek out partners before we aim to launch any new program or even consider certain ideas. As an example, ASU offers robust support for veterans through the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, so we reached out to our colleagues there to consider the best way to support veteran student entrepreneurs or active service or veteran students’ families. They were glad to add a dimension of programming—entrepreneurship—and we were glad to tap into a community we are so keenly attuned to serving.
By working with partners, we create win-win situations, are more targeted in the support we need to directly deliver versus those we can rely on partners for, and are more efficient and effective. The same can be said for external partnerships. We need a place for our students to connect into and continue their entrepreneurial journey, should they choose to continue the pursuit. So we work effectively with community-based organizations to engage experienced mentors, or to market events to students, and other ways to create high levels of visibility and connectivity, thereby strengthening the overall ecosystem. Much of this may sound basic, but surprisingly, many of us want to get moving and get doing, before asking, who might be good resources and partners for us? Who might have resident expertise that I can call upon? So perhaps this can serve just as a reminder to seek out partners before figuring out how to take everything on yourself or within your unit.