This semester, I have 71 students registered for my class: Entrepreneurship 423, New Venture Development. It is a particularly large class as I have nor restriction on the number of students who can enroll in my course. My view is that every aspiring entrepreneur should learn the skills, language, and risk mitigation techniques that I teach which may help turn their innovative dreams into an economic reality. Much of my lecture materials are a collection of experiences, both successful and those less so, as an entrepreneur in the franchise restaurant sector, real estate, publishing and cell tower industries. My hope is that this semester’s lectures, delivered from my home library via Zoom technology, were nearly as effective and impactful as they have been for previous Simon students whose faces and body language I could clearly see and often judge as indicators of comprehension of the material being taught.
Just last week, as the final class lecture and assignments are about due, I received a notice from a student counselor about Damien (fictitious name), a student in my lecture. Damien, a nurse in our University Medical Center’s emergency facility, had applied for “late permission to drop” the course. When I inquired about the reason, the counselor informed me that the stress of the work environment, family responsibilities and demanding MBA curriculum was overwhelming, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic. I declined to sign the permission to drop form.
After the email exchange with the student counselor, I spoke with Damien in a Zoom session…now the preferred method of communication. Listening attentively, his internal dissonance apparent, I felt compassionate sympathy with his need to drop the course. However, I countered with the reasons why Damien had to preserve toward completion. While I clearly understood the pressures of work, family and a punishing MBA program, he was too close to the finish line to withdraw. This is a course in entrepreneurship, I exhorted. Being an entrepreneur is about overcoming obstacles, about adapting, about risk-taking, agility and determination and how to respond when a severe indiscriminate setback to your routine and finances forces you to swivel in a new direction.
While you are one of America’s heroes on the vanguard of the battlefield in the university emergency room, there is another epic battle waging which is the financial calamity that is destroying our economy, among others worldwide. I submit to you, show your mettle, demonstrate to your colleagues, family and classmates that you can do this, and in fact, as your professor, I will help you in the process. You will be granted an extension on your assignments just as businesses are making concessions for their consumers for late payments. We are all in this together; this is not your fight alone.