Liguori named President of the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
Dr. Eric Liguori, William G. Rohrer Chair of Entrepreneurship at Rowan University, has been named the 37th President of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE). USASBE is a global membership organization focused on advancing entrepreneurship education through bold teaching, scholarship, and practice. Liguori, who was elected in Fall of 2017 to take office this January, has been a member of the organization for over a decade and served on the USASBE Board of Directors for the past six years in a variety of roles including VP Publications, VP Research, Sr. VP Operations, and President Elect. He succeeds Mark Schenkel who has served as USASBE’s President since last January.
In an effort to help better connect the USASBE Nation the USASBE Medium Team recently sat down with Eric to learn more about who he is as a teacher, scholar, and individual. Here’s what he had to say.
Question: How did you get into entrepreneurship education? What was your path?
As an MBA student at the University of South Florida I stumbled into entrepreneurship as a field of study when I was hired as a graduate intern at the Small Business Development Center. While my interests at the time were really in human resource management, this was an internship opportunity that aligned well with my schedule and seemed like a good learning opportunity, so I gave it a try. Upon graduation, I went full time with the SBDC and after about six months, with all metrics pointing toward success, the Regional SBDC Director met me for lunch one day and told me that if I was still working there in a year she’d be disappointed. It was a total punch to the gut, completely unexpected, and was the best advice I think anybody has ever given me. She explained there was no career path for me at SBDC, and that while it was a rewarding job, it wasn’t the best opportunity for someone young in thier career.
Shortly thereafter I left the SBDC for a position in corporate HR. I worked for that company for about 2 years and then an opportunity to work as a Regional HR Consultant for a global HR/payroll company presented itself. This opportunity was intriguing — I oversaw outsourced HR for a portfolio of 40 regional companies that ranged from 12–200 employees. In essence, I met with entrepreneurs daily, helping them with their HR and payroll challenges, so they could run their ventures more optimly.
While the job was fun in many ways, I pretty regularly would look at the company’s payroll after meeting with the founder/CEO and say to myself “well if that person can make that much money running that business as poorly as s/he does, maybe anybody can do it.”
This, however, wasn’t my ah-ha startup moment. Rather, it was my “I hate my corporate job and want to do something different” moment, so I began to apply to PhD programs with the goal being to get a PhD and teach HR (something I had pondered doing since my undergrad days).
Once in my doctoral program I was pretty happy, but I couldn’t shake my frustration with the gap that existed between what I read in the HR/OB literature and what I did day-to-day in industry. Perhaps I should have viewed that as a challenge — find a better way to bridge the gap between theory and practice in HR — but instead I found the gap was much less pronounced in entrepreneurship, an area I already had several positive experiences in, and I found a great mentor who was doing work in that space that intrigued me. I’ve never looked back—the switch to entrepreneurship was the best decision I could have made.
Question: What is your favorite class to teach and why?
I love teaching our Entrepreneurship and Innovation course, especially because we get so many students from a diverse array of majors and disciplines across campus together in the same room. That said, I’d have to say Social Entrepreneurship is my favorite class to teach because I can see the lightbulbs going off in students’ minds as they engage with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, explore effective altruism, struggle with measuring impact, and ultimately work on new business models to help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than working to help the next generation change the world, even if my role is really just one small part.
Question: What do you love most about USASBE?
I love how USASBE is a safe environment to share new ideas, despite how bold or outlandish they may be, for feedback and support. I’ve long appreciated how the USASBE nation is really a community of people who have come together to share resources and support. It is definitely the most inspiring event I attend each year.
Question: What are you most looking forward to for USASBE in 2019?
I have the pleasure of working every day at Rowan with an amazing team of people focused on ensuring student success. I believe strongly that the people you work with and the mission you serve are the two biggest factors that impact how you feel about the work you do and thus how successful you are at doing it. What excites me most about USASBE in 2019 is the people involved who I believe together can accomplish almost anything. Our mission is clear: advance entrepreneurship education through bold, teaching, scholarship, and practice, and our team consists of an accomplished and dedicated Board of Directors, a new Executive Director, and a growing and diverse membership base. All of these people are the fabric of USASBE and collectively help to make USASBE the strongest support and development network an entreprenuership educator or program director could hope for. Together we will continue advancing USASBE’s mission.
Question: Can you share a fun fact about yourself? Something that makes you unique?
When I was 36 I decided I wanted to do a 40x40x40 challenge — I want to have visited 40 countries and 40 states by the time I turn 40. With just over 2 years to go I’ve made steady progress (38 states and 30 countries), but I still have some work to do to hit my goal.