The United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) presented the 2023 Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year Award to Dr. Eric Liguori of Rowan University.
The award is given to educators who demonstrate a leadership role in promoting entrepreneurship through their work and contributions.
Eric Liguori is the Founding Head of the School of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Rowan University. He holds the William G. Rohrer Chair of Entrepreneurship and serves as executive director of the Rowan Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. His research interests include entrepreneurship, education, entrepreneurial competency development and entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Liguori primarily helps support students who want to develop entrepreneurial mindsets or want to start and grow companies and connect them to the resources that the university has available to support them.
The school coordinates all the different entrepreneurship programs across the campus. Some of the programs that are provided are co-curricular programs, academic programs, degree programs, certificate programs and the interdisciplinary entrepreneurship minor through the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They also bridge students between South Jersey Tech Park and their own innovation venture fund.
USASBE is an organization whose mission is to advance entrepreneurship education through bold teaching, scholarship and practice. The organization is about 1,000 entrepreneurship educators who come together to share best practices to push the field forward and to develop new pedagogical approaches and techniques.
“I met a lot of interesting people. It’s a constant source of inspiration to go to some of their events and to sit in on some of the programs and just see what other schools are doing and other faculty are doing in different places,” Liguori said.
He finds it fascinating to talk to some of these entrepreneurs and see what they are able to accomplish, how they think about the world and how they create value and solve problems.
Liguori has been involved with USASBE since 2010. He was on their board of directors for seven years and was the president of the organization a few years ago.
“USASBE is a large enough organization that you can go and you can get exposed to all these different tools and techniques, and you can figure out which of them make the most sense for your classroom and your class, your student body and bring back those best practices and try them out and use them as they make sense,” Liguori said.
Winning the award was a total surprise to Liguori. He received a text from Julienne Shield, the president and chief executive officer of USASBE, out of the blue asking “Do you have a minute to talk?”
“For whatever reason, the way she said it, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m in trouble. Like, what did I do?’ Either she needs a favor or she’s mad about something, right?” Liguori said.
When Liguori picked up the phone, Shields told him that he was nominated and the awards committee selected him.
“I was really just kind of blown away. I was surprised, I was caught off guard. But it was really cool. It was really special,” Liguori said.
He found the organization from his mentor, Dr. Mark Weaver, a former professor at Rowan.
“He introduced me to the organization and opened up his network to me and helped connect me with different people and sort of coached me along the path,” Liguori said. “How do I become a better researcher? How do I become a better teacher? How do I give back to the community and support others who are trying to become better researchers and better educators?”
Liguori knows how important mentorship is for students as it was for him. Liguori spoke about Julian Doroteo, a student who was an entrepreneurship major and Marine Corps veteran who opened up a barbershop. Liguori was there for the grand opening.
“You could just tell this is a good person and he’s moving things forward in a really positive way and how you just leave feeling so proud, so grateful for the opportunity to work with him. So proud of everything he’s accomplishing. So yeah, I think that’s why we do what we do,” Liguori said.