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Professors Honored with Prestigious Meredith and Teaching Recognition Awards
Michelle Kaarst-Brown, associate professor in the School of Information Studies, and Tom Perreault, professor of geography in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, have been named the 2018-21 Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professors for Teaching Excellence.
Seven non-tenured faculty members will receive Meredith Teaching Recognition Awards. They are Nina Brown, Francine D’Amico, Tara Kahan, Brice Nordquist, Adam Peruta, Renée Stevens and Kenneth Walsleben.
All will be honored at the One University Awards Ceremony on Friday, April 20, at 4 p.m. in Hendricks Chapel.
A substantial bequest from the estate of L. Douglas Meredith, a 1926 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, allowed for the creation of the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professorships in 1995 to recognize and reward outstanding teaching at the University. The awards encourage faculty members to look upon the many dimensions of teaching as manifold opportunities for constant improvement, to emphasize the great importance the University places on teaching and to improve the teaching and learning process on campus. The Meredith Professors receive a supplemental salary award and additional funding for each year of their appointment. The Meredith Professors are enrolled for life in the Meredith Symposium as an honor and to provide a permanent forum for the discussion of teaching and learning.
Associate Professor in the School of Information Studies
Kaarst-Brown says one of the most encouraging things a student can experience is the enthusiasm of their instructors for their subjects.
“I have tried to express this in my own teaching. I love to teach and I enjoy what I teach. I do not expect my students to enter my courses with the same level of enthusiasm for the subjects as I have, but I work hard to engage them and ensure that they leave my courses with newfound enthusiasm and respect for the subject matter,” she says.
Kaarst-Brown brought to academia nearly 20 years of experience in management and consulting in the financial services industry. She has led or had key roles in the design and development or redesign of several courses and programs at the School of Information Studies, including a two-week European Seminar Abroad for iSchool students. She also designed and developed the IST 425 and 625, enterprise risk management courses, which include research projects with small businesses and not-for-profit organizations in the local community.
Kaarst-Brown is committed to incorporating different experiential learning methods and creates interactive, problem-solving techniques for use in her undergraduate, graduate and doctoral courses.
“My commitment to my students is high, and includes meetings outside of scheduled class of advising sessions. I believe in my content, but, equally as important, I believe in my students,” Kaarst-Brown says. “Students often tell me that my expectations are very high and that the workload in my courses is more than other courses they have taken. Based on the quality of student work, final reflections and course evaluations, I believe most of my students leave with increased self-knowledge, self-confidence and appreciation for what they can achieve.”
Senior Kristy Malley served as an undergraduate teaching assistant in Kaarst-Brown’s Enterprise IT Consultation course. “Professor Kaarst-Brown inspired me to be a better learner every day. She goes above and beyond basic course content by curating examples from her real-world experiences in consulting and turning them into valuable lessons,” Malley says. “She is extremely effective in helping students grasp difficult concepts and always incorporates hands-on team activities to integrate these concepts into practical, easily understandable applications.”
Mariel Rosario, a graduate student in information management, describes Kaarst-Brown as an exceptional and phenomenal educator. “As devoted as she was to our class’ success, she expected her students to be equally devoted to their work and learning. She pushed us beyond our limits and taught us we could achieve higher potential,” Rosario says. “Dr. Kaarst-Brown did not accept mediocrity in her classroom; she made it clear on the first day. As a result, our meetings and discussions were engaging and though provoking. She encouraged students to learn from one another, as many of us came from diverse backgrounds and cultures that impacted our experiences both personally and professionally.”
Kaarst-Brown’s many contributions to teaching and learning are well noted by her faculty colleagues as well.
“Professor Kaarst-Brown is not simply a great course designer—she has the ability to switch on a body of content and turn it into an impactful series of learning engagements. She is not simply an excellent teacher—she profoundly inspires her students to precision, greatness and confidence. She is not just a personal mentor—she partners with students to bring out their best and to instill in them the vision that they can achieve,” says Arthur Thomas, professor of practice and associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Information Studies. “Michelle is not just a valuable member of our school and University community—she is one of the reasons that students, staff and colleagues want to come here to teach, to study and to be a part of the instructional process that she helped to build and continues to inspire.”
Kaarst-Brown’s planned Meredith project is “Learning, Teaching and Building Community Resiliency through Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Workshops.” ERM addresses goals of overall business continuity and resiliency. Kaarst-Brown plans to design and offer a new interdisciplinary, undergraduate and graduate blended course for ERM study.
The outcomes of the course would provide workshops for small businesses to assist in their development of better risk management and resiliency practices. The project would also include a research component to support the development of an ERM textbook and personal development opportunities.
Professor of Geography in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences
Perreault was born to be a teacher.
“I enjoy teaching am deeply committed to it, and have never seriously considered doing anything else professionally,” he says. His interest in education began in high school, when he volunteered as a naturalist with a local environmental education program. Working with children ages 10-12, he developed teaching skills that he was able to transfer right into a University classroom.
A globally known political ecologist, Perreault’s teaching focuses on the fields of political ecology, environmental justice, agrarian political economy and rural development. Since joining the University community in 2000, Perreault has developed a suite of seven courses that he offers in regular rotation. This semester, he began teaching Research Design (GEO 602), a required seminar for all graduate students in the geography department.
Perreault infuses experiential learning into his courses as often as he can. His Food: A Critical Geography (GEO 415) course is designed around a series of field trips and field-based assignments in and around Syracuse that allow students to get first-hand experience with certain aspects of local agro-food systems. The final assignment in his Geography of Mountain Environments (GEO 317) class gives students the option of writing a research paper or doing a “creative” project, for which students can think outside the box to examine the humanistic aspects of mountain geography. Past projects have included poetry, creative writing, photography, music (performed live in class) and visual arts, among others.
“While the class is heavily science-based, with topics such as plate tectonics, geomorphology, glaciology, biogeography and climate, about 80 percent of the students typically do a creative project. This allows students the opportunity to pursue their own interests and draw on their own skills,” he says. He also incorporates mapping assignments into all of his undergraduate courses.
Perreault is a popular advisor and mentor for his students. “As I applied for Ph.D. programs this past winter, my experience working with Dr. Perreault led me to look for advisors that could follow in his model—someone who not only teaches courses, writes articles and pursues research that excites me and aligns thematically with my study according to their CV, but also lives this practice, dedicating the time, energy and genuine care in student learning,” says master’s degree student Katie MacDonald. “He is, as a teacher and professor, a tall act to follow, and I can only hope that as I move into a position as a university professor in the future, I am able to carry forward his inspiring example.”
“Academically, Professor Perreault is innovative, challenging and passionate, and he leads by example. His class on the political ecologies of Latin America was by far the most stimulating of my undergraduate career. His ability to explain a topic in depth, and yet simplify it with an interdisciplinary point of view, energized others and myself,” says geography alumna Emily Malina ’16. “My unbreakable “Orange pride” does not come from Syracuse University’s sports teams, but from the dedicated professors who changed my life—of whom Professor Perreault is of the highest merit.”
Perreault has also held important administrative roles in the geography department that has allowed him to shape curriculum and foster a supportive learning environment for students. He served as director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Geography from 2005-09 and has served as director of graduate studies since 2015. As undergraduate director, he organized an undergraduate geography club as a venue for social and academic events and as a way to involve students more fully in the life of the department, and initiated an annual Career Night to bring together current students, recent graduates and experienced professionals to discuss career preparation and professional life. He was recognized as the Undergraduate Advisor of the Year in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2009.
Bob Wilson, associate professor of geography, says that Perreault, due to his reputation as a globally known Latin America scholar, attracts some of the best applicants to the geography department from North America and Latin America.
“Tom is a world-class researcher and one of the best teachers in the Maxwell School. “He is precisely the sort of faculty member the Meredith Professorship award was meant for.”
For his Meredith Project, Perreault proposes to develop the Syracuse Urban Ecology Laboratory. This would include three components—a field-based, upper-division undergraduate class that would use the city of Syracuse as a laboratory for studying urban ecology; a field trip guide that would allow SU faculty or high school teachers to adopt individual components of the class and incorporate them into their own teaching; and an interactive website focused on urban ecology in Syracuse, designed for use by college and high school students and instructors as a tool for teaching, research and activism.
Meredith Teaching Recognition Awards
The Teaching Recognition Awards program was established in 2001 through an expansion of the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professorship Program. The Meredith Professors themselves proposed that the Teaching Recognition Award Program recognize excellence in teaching by non-tenured faculty and adjunct and part-time instructors. Recipients are selected for teaching innovation, effectiveness in communicating with students and the lasting value of their courses. To be eligible, candidates must have completed two years of service to the University and not yet received tenure. Each recipient is given $3,000 to further his or her professional development.
Nina Brown ’01
Assistant Professor of Communications in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
When Brown graduated from Syracuse University in 2001, she set her sights on one day coming back to teach law in the Newhouse School. “Though my undergraduate major was advertising, when I took communications law my senior year something clicked,” she says. “I knew that I would eventually pursue a career examining the intersection of media and the law. Even then I thought about how rewarding it would be to do that at Newhouse and share my passion for the subject with students.”
After careers in both advertising and law, Brown joined the Newhouse faculty in the fall of 2015. She teaches three communications law courses as well as Communications and Society (COM 107), the gateway course for all Newhouse first-year students.
Brown says she has a challenge in the classroom. “My students are smart, highly focused and driven. In many ways, this makes them an ideal group to teach. But I primarily teach law courses—and they haven’t come to Newhouse to study law. For many of them, the idea of taking a challenging law course their senior year is seen simply as something standing between them and graduation. … As a result, I begin each semester with a bit of an uphill climb. I have to convince students that this course is worth the work.”
She does this in several ways, and one is through engaging students. In one exercise, to teach defamation, students pair up and write a defamatory tweet about Brown. They then discuss the tweets and whether they meet the criteria of defamation.
Brown works to reach all learners and makes courses as interactive as possible. And she keeps the content relevant and fresh. “I try to give students examples of what’s happening now. In my law courses, an example from 1977 will be less memorable than one involving Beyoncé,” she says. “I have made significant effort to craft assignments that will help students learn and generalize the course content so that they can apply it down the road. I don’t want students to memorize; I want them to learn.”
One assignment she designed for her Advertising and Public Relations course had students create press releases or print advertisements that, unknowingly, were filled with legal landmines. “We then used these deliverables throughout the rest of the semester to gain competence with the course learning objectives or recognizing and addressing common legal issues.” This assignment concept earned Brown a teaching award in 2017 from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications law division.
“Nina’s teaching record can easily be described as exemplary. She is, by all accounts, an extraordinary teacher who cares deeply about her students and is able to inspire and motivate them,” says Lorraine Branham, dean of the Newhouse School. “However, she goes beyond effectiveness in the classroom, mentoring and advising students in matters of both career and curriculum.”
Teaching Professor of International Relations in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences
You can often find students in D’Amico’s office in Eggers Hall. She commits 15-20 hours a week during the academic year to office hours to be available to the hundreds of students that she teaches, advises and mentors each year. That is just a small part of the impact that she makes upon Syracuse University students every year.
D’Amico has been a member of the faculty of the Maxwell School for 17 years. She teaches courses ranging from large introductory courses to smaller senior-level research seminars and practica. She supervises more than two dozen capstone projects in the international relations program and evaluates dozens more, and has mentored more than 200 students in independent studies, internship supervisions and one-credit offerings over the past 17 years. She is also the faculty supervisor for the IRP 450, Undergraduate Research Assistant Program, and provides the academic framework for this professional development experience.
“This may sound cliché, but the truth of it is that I love teaching. My students well understand this passion—they see it in my careful preparation for class lectures and seminars, as well as the time I take to provide constructive feedback on their class presentations and written work, from examinations to senior research projects,” she says.
D’Amico constantly updates and refreshes courses to keep them current and keep her students engaged. She revised LAS/PSC 358 from Inter-American Relations to Latin American International Relations, expanding the focus to include Latin America’s engagement with parts of the world beyond the western hemisphere. She revised the PSC 352 International Law course to include critical and comparative perspectives on the law, and the course is now designated a critical reflections course for liberal arts core requirements.
“My pedagogical philosophy is simple to state but difficult to achieve: I seek to offer students engaging questions and varied perspectives about contemporary international affairs that will encourage them to think critically and creatively and become better global citizens, whatever their individual career trajectories,” D’Amico says.
D’Amico designed and regularly teaches Global Governance Practicum: Model United Nations (IRP 413). The senior seminar provides an academic framework to guide students in the study of global diplomacy, and the class forms the University’s Model UN team, which competes at the Model UN conference in New York City each spring. The Syracuse University team has won one of two top honors at each of the past six conferences. D’Amico is the faculty advisor for several undergraduate student organizations, including Sigma Iota Rho (the IR honor society), Oxfam, UNICEF and the Model UN Club, and the International Relations Learning Community for first-year students.
“Professor D’Amico’s dedication to the students in our program simply cannot be overstated,” says Matthew Cleary, Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence and chair of the International Relations Program.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences
Kahan joined the University community in the fall of 2012, and has taught six distinct lecture and laboratory courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. She also has been involved in several major initiatives to improve teaching in the chemistry department.
“As a teacher, I feel that my primary responsibility is to help students learn,” Kahan says. “This involves not only presenting them with information, but helping them understand the importance of the information and making that information accessible and understandable to them. It also means helping students to develop the tools and the critical thinking skills they need in order to properly assess and analyze information.”
Kahan redesigned Analytical and Physical Chemistry Laboratory (CHE 347), a core undergraduate class, to improve learning outcomes. For this class, she purchased new instrumentation, implemented an online component and developed new experiments to better reinforce technical skills and concepts. At the graduate level, she helped create a new course, Seminar in General Chemistry (CHE 799), which is now required for students and engages them in colloquia and research. A new class project she designed for CHE 600: Atmospheric Aerosol Chemistry helped students sharpen skills needed for graduate school, such as oral and written communication and research design.
She is a co-principal investigator for the Education Model Program on Water and Energy Research (EMPOWER), a National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) program that funds professional development and interdisciplinary research opportunities for graduate students, preparing them for careers beyond academia. Kahan helped to write the grant proposal and develop the EMPOWER program, which resulted in a $3 million award. She also co-taught Water-Energy Seminar (EAR 612) a required course for all program participants.
Kahan has mentored several graduate students, and provided opportunities within her research group to both undergraduate and graduate students. She has been involved with the Department of Chemistry’s National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates and with several outreach programs to introduce science to underrepresented middle- and high-school students. She is also a member the faculty leadership team and executive committee of Women in Science and Engineering.
Timothy Korter, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry, says Kahan is a role model for innovation and student engagement. “Tara’s outstanding teaching and mentoring abilities are prominently demonstrated through her truly innovative approaches to teaching graduate and undergraduate courses, both in the lecture hall and the laboratory,” he says. “Professor Kahan is the epitome of the engaging, dedicated and broadly impactful teacher scholar that Syracuse University needs to encourage.”
Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric in the College of Arts and Sciences
Many of Nordquist’s courses focus on a theoretical understanding of literacy as a situated social practice.
“My approach to teaching is rooted in an understanding of courses, curricula, institutions and individuals as ongoing accomplishments of practice, rather than predetermined and self-evident,” he says. “It is also rooted in an understanding of literacies as ways of inhabiting and transforming material and social environments. Rather than conceptualizing literacy in technical terms, independent of social context, I study and teach literacies as a way of being in the world.”
“I want students to recognize themselves and each other as co-creators of dynamic and intertwined educational, professional, civic and social spaces, and thereby develop greater investments in and senses of shared responsibility for the co-creation of these spaces,” he says.
Nordquist has taught a broad range of courses across the curriculum, including WRT 105, the gateway writing course; several upper division courses and core and elective graduate seminars. In all courses he teaches, he integrates his knowledge of current conversations in the field with course outcomes and makes the material accessible to students at every level.
During his first semester at Syracuse, Nordquist taught Studies in Composition, Rhetoric and Literacy (WRT 428). After studying scholarly discussions on literacy, students were tasked with researching and analyzing literacy practices found in a literacy site of their choice. Nordquist created an innovative website that enabled them to share their research with students in a partner class at California State University-Chico.
Nordquist created Rhetorics of Futurity (WRT 426) during a Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) Faculty Fellowship he held with Syracuse University Libraries in 2016. Using materials from the SCRC, students were asked to create profiles of a single place at particular moments in history. Students shared their research on Interstate 81, Syracuse’s 15th Ward, Marshall Street and other points in an SCRC special exhibit in 2017. “Their shared contribution to the exhibit offered a coherent representation of the ways in which rhetorics of progress, decline, opportunity and otherness have shaped public spaces and social relations in Syracuse, and of how rhetoric and writing might be employed to help reshape these spaces and relations in support of a more equitable, just and sustainable future city,” Nordquist says.
As a board member and volunteer for the North Side Learning Center, Nordquist supports refugees and recent immigrants in their development of language skills. He brings this community engagement orientation into undergraduate and graduate courses. Through his Interdisciplinary Studies in Language and Literacy: Language, Literacy and Mobility (CCR 661) seminar, graduate students wrote about the full complexity surrounding their theoretical investigation of issues of language, literacy and mobility through engaging with the experiences of refugees in Syracuse.
“Brice’s teaching is defined by a rare blend of rigor, creativity, maturity and thoughtfulness, a particularly noteworthy achievement in a faculty member who has begun his career so recently,” says Lois Agnew, associate professor of writing and rhetoric and associate dean of curriculum innovation and pedagogy in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Adam Peruta ’00, G’04
Assistant Professor of Magazine in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
Peruta has witnessed great success among his students. To him, the true measure of his abilities as a teacher, though, are the difficult moments. “I take pride in my interest and dedication to all students, especially those for whom the material seems too difficult, whose attitude or personal challenges compromise their engagement, or who simply lack the motivation,” he says. “I try to model the dedication and commitment to tough work I expect from my students. In fact, to a great extent, I am passionate about the subject matter—storytelling, design and technology—and that makes teaching exhilarating and enjoyable for me.”
Peruta teaches courses in digital branding and strategy, interactive design and digital communications. He is also a developer and entrepreneur committed to digital innovation. He developed a “Traditions Challenge” mobile app that promotes student engagement on college campuses. His app won three awards, including best-of-show honors at the Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts. He also developed a location based, group reward system that Entrepreneur Magazine named one of its Top 100 Brilliant Ideas.
“This work informs how I approach course-content creation with the mission of teaching skills that I not only want the students to learn, but skills that will make them successful after they graduate,” he says. “I seek to make the classroom a place of intensity and to cultivate engaging discussions where students and I learn from each other.”
Peruta teaches courses to undergraduates from all Newhouse departments and two graduate programs. He has been instrumental in launching the department and graduate program’s social media efforts. For the online graduate program, he designed both the asynchronous and synchronous content for the Digital Communications Systems (ICC 612) course.
In 2016, he revamped his Designing Interactivity (ICC 565) class to make design and coding for mobile devices the primary theme. “Students spend much time on their phones, but when it comes to consuming web-based media on their mobile devices, they don’t know how they work,” he says. “The new course content created some real ‘ah-ha’ moments for them. It was satisfying to see students make connections between the discussions about coding in class to the application of that code to create a website that appeared on their phone in a readable way.”
Melissa Chessher, professor and chair of the magazine, news and digital journalism department in the Newhouse School, says Peruta is masterful and generous in his determination to develop skills in students who sometimes are overwhelmed or intimidated by the challenging content he teaches. “He coaches with patience and without leaping in to fix things for students, patiently supporting them as they navigate using coding to create a digital fixture or to edit a video or audio,” she says. “His enthusiasm is infectious and he is masterful at helping students build things, including (and especially) their own confidence in their abilities.”
Renée Stevens G’11
Assistant Professor of Multimedia Photography and Design in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
When Stevens was a child, her grandfather would give her small tasks to complete, such a rolling coins. He then handed the coin roll back to her as payment. She didn’t know it then, but that small act was teaching her math skills, entrepreneurship and how to be a teacher. “He showed me the best teachers are those where the students do not even realize they are learning,” she says. “Every day I aspire to be the kind of teacher that my grandfather was to me.”
An interactive designer, Stevens is the third generation in her family to teach at Syracuse University. She teaches multimedia photography and design courses in the multimedia photography and design department in the Newhouse School, and is passionate about infusing innovative technology, such as augmented reality (AR), into the design curriculum. “This technology can help us push out of the rectangles that restrict our views by allowing us to layer information and learn in the same space as we create,” she says.
Stevens learned AR by immersing herself in it. “This is my core philosophy on teaching—to truly learn something you have to be immersed in it and gain experience doing it, even if it pushes you out of your comfort zone. If you stay in your comfort zone, what do you actually learn?”
To teach a senior design capstone course, Stevens converted her classroom into a design studio. She is a strong advocate for designing for the public good, which led her to create the Pixels and Print Design Workshop. Stevens accepts applications from clients from around the world for the workshop, now in its fourth year. Students vote on the project, assess the design needs and, with the help of faculty, staff and professional coaches, complete the task within 48 hours. Topics have ranged from mental health to creating photo archives for refugees to helping the South Side community in Syracuse.
“While the students learn an immense amount during these workshops, the work they create is not connected to a course assignment; they participate because they want to be there,” Stevens says. “The end result is not assessed by a grade attached to their work, but rather they get to witness how their design created change, or helped a community, or brought people together and changed lives. To me, there is no better way to teach the power of design than by having them experience it first hand through this workshop.”
“Renée is the personification of the tireless, warmhearted professor who inspires everyone around her by her example,” says Newhouse Associate Professor Ken Harper. “I have never worked with a more joyful, dedicated individual in my life. Renée’s the professor I wish I had during my formative educational years. Newhouse students are incredibly lucky to have her.”
Kenneth Walsleben ’83
Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management
Walsleben brings more than 30 years of industry experience to his role as a teacher. He joined the Syracuse University community in 2009 as an adjunct professor and began teaching full time in 2014.
He teaches Strategic and Entrepreneurial Management (EEE 457), Whitman’s senior undergraduate capstone course. This signature course is know n as one of the school’s toughest. “This course challenges students in new and unique ways, and bridges the gap between their college years and the post-grad world that awaits,” Walsleben says.
Walsleben says he has learned that no matter the course, educational level or age of the learner, all students are looking for knowledge about the world that exists beyond the University. He infuses the capstone course, and all of the courses he teaches, with his industry and real-world experience.
“I have found that sharing my 30-plus years of industry experience is routinely met with deeper investment from our students,” he says. “They tell me that I readily relate to them, but I think the ‘magic’ is really about conveying to them the practical application of our present academic pursuits.”
He is also a believer in inquiry-based learning and challenges students to find and bring back their own answers to pressing academic issues. “I will often point them to industry experts I know, or suggest specific methods to research a given problem,” he says. “But often, I stop well short of simply providing them an easy answer. We want our graduates to be lifelong learners, and developing their investigative skills remains a priority for me.”
Walsleben designed and implemented a new three-credit course, Entrepreneurial Turnarounds, for undergraduate and graduate students. He also built and delivered an online summer course, Introduction to Entrepreneurship (EEE 370) and Foundations of Entrepreneurship (EEE 620), an online graduate course for MBA@Syracuse. He is a regular contributor to the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) offered through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and serves as chair of the Undergraduate Board at the Whitman School. He was also voted by students as the school’s 2017 Convocation speaker.
Alexander McKelvie, associate professor and chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises, says that Walsleben’s eye for quality and collaborative approach push students to work harder and provide a soft developmental hand as needed. “Based on this, Ken’s classes work both hard and smart—and are able to better understand what information truly matters versus just being information,” he says. “To that end, they walk away with a superior understanding of how different parts of the business fit together and how they can pursue entrepreneurial opportunities.”