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December 18, 2023 | Tom Ballard

UT, Knoxville program creating the future faculty to teach entrepreneurship

David Williams says much of his time is spent working with the doctoral students to not just help them develop high-quality research but also to help them get their first articles published.

“We are creating the future faculty to teach entrepreneurship,” says David Williams, Program Director of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s (UTK) Ph.D. program in Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Organizations (SEO).

Located in the Haslam College of Business and part of the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, the program is small by nature – nine students currently – but has established a national and international reputation.

David Williams

“Our students come from everywhere,” Williams explained. About one-half are from somewhere in the U.S., while the other half are from other countries.

“We are educating our future colleagues,” he says. As Program Director for the past seven years, he says much of his time is spent working with the doctoral students to not just help them develop high-quality research but also to help them get their first articles published. That’s clearly important for anyone who wants to secure a tenure-track position.

A good example of his active collaboration with students is work with Becca Arwine, one of the SEO doctoral students, on a project titled “Founder Identity Evolution: Workspaces as Accelerators of Identity Work.” It was one of the three inaugural projects funded by UTK’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) under its new Anderson Center Research Fund.

As noted in this post from June 4, each proposal paired a doctoral student and faculty member. In the case of Arwine and Williams, their focus is on better understanding “how entrepreneurial support organizations (e.g., co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators, educational institutions, and ecosystems generally) may provide physical and psychological space for individuals to cognitively identify as, or psychologically ‘become,’ an entrepreneur.”

In addition to his roles as head of the Ph.D. program and a full Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship, Williams also is a William B. Stokely Distinguished Scholar and one of the seven inaugural ACEI Research Fellows announced earlier this year.

“Research is an unusual model in business schools not developing new technologies,” Williams explains, adding it is a reasonably young discipline, but one that is growing rapidly. In the case of the Haslam College, the research, such as the collaboration with Arwine, is more focused on how to make entrepreneurs better, more successful, and the ecosystems that support them stronger.

In terms of the type of doctoral students that the SEO program targets, Williams said he and the other faculty members are seeking a balance. On the one hand, “We want you to look at a topic (for your dissertation) where we have the expertise,” he explains. “We (also) want you to find something that is uniquely yours.”

Williams came to UTK in 2010 as an Assistant Professor after nearly five years at Bradley University where he was an International Trade Specialist for the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center and an affiliate instructor at Bradley. His dissertation at Georgia State University was titled the “Internationalization of New Ventures.”

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