USASBE Member Spotlight: Meet Alex DeNoble

Dr. Alex DeNoble

Meet Alex DeNoble, Professor of Management and Executive Director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center in the Fowler College of Business at San Diego State University. In an effort to help better connect the USASBE Nation, the USASBE Medium Team recently sat down with Alex to learn more about who he is as a teacher, scholar, and individual. Fun fact: Alex is a USASBE Fellow and Past President. Here’s what he had to say.

Question: How did you get into entrepreneurship education? What was your path?

My first exposure to entrepreneurship education came in 1978 while I was a Masters student at Virginia Tech. I took a class in Small Business Management taught by then doctoral student Richard Castaldi. Following that class, Rick introduced me to his dissertation advisor, Professor Max Wortman. Max immediately took me under his wing and helped me transition into the doctoral program. During this time, Max was part of a pioneering group of academics who ultimately were responsible for the formation of USASBE in 1981. So I guess you can say that I have been involved in this organization since inception.

Upon completing my Ph.D. in 1983, I joined the faculty at San Diego State University. San Diego at the time was (and still is) a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity. There was one professor, Daryl Mitton, who had been teaching entrepreneurship classes for a number of years. Shortly after my arrival, Professor Mitton retired and handed his entrepreneurship class to me. Little did I know at the time that that action would define the remainder of my career. Other professors, including Dr. Sanford Ehrlich, subsequently joined the faculty and together we started building an entrepreneurship curriculum. We were encouraged in this effort by a visionary business community, led by Mr. Ron Fowler and supportive deans, Allan Bailey, Gail Naughton, Michael Cunningham and Gangaram Singh. With strong financial support, we created the Entrepreneurial Management Center in 1988 to offer co-curricula activities along with additional coursework. In the early 2000’s , we met Leonard H. Lavin, a highly accomplished entrepreneur who believed in our vision. He subsequently endowed our program and today we are known as the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center.

Question: What is your favorite class to teach and why?

As a condition of his gift, Leonard Lavin challenged us to create an undergraduate specialty cohort program that would be open to students from across the SDSU campus. The Lavin Entrepreneur program, now in its 11th year, is a 2-year experience and comprises students from across the campus including but not limited to art, engineering, science, kinesiology, film, music, psychology and business. Interested students must apply to join a 25–30 person cohort each year. We meet these students once per week during the academic year for two hours beginning at 7:00 in the morning. I love working with this group because they all come from diverse cultural and academic backgrounds, yet they share a common desire to develop and refine their entrepreneurial skills and competencies.

Question: What does your research focus on and how does it inform your teaching?

I have been interested in three primary streams of research throughout my career (Entrepreneurial Self-efficacy, technology commercialization, and nascent entrepreneurship). With the self-efficacy research, my colleagues and I developed a domain specific ESE instrument that is used by researchers around the world. We believe that ESE can be developed and cultivated in our students through specially designed curricula and co-curricula activities. We use this instrument as an assessment tool in our Lavin Entrepreneur program. Our technology related work focuses on paths to commercialization for early stage technologies by the entrepreneurs who develop them. I use insights from this work to help me engage more effectively with young technology-based entrepreneurs (especially through our CSU I-CORPS Program). Our current research seeks to help us understand how nascent and inexperienced entrepreneurs (i.e. our students) learn by acquiring the knowledge and competencies needed to pursue entrepreneurial paths. Our work focuses on networking and mentoring strategies of novice and experienced entrepreneurs. We are using insights from these studies as we continue to design a high impact mentor program for our students.

Question: What do you love most about USASBE?

I love the camaraderie of our membership. As passionate as we are at SDSU in creating high impact entrepreneurship programs, I find that I am among like-minded individuals at a USASBE gathering. Our membership is made up of incredibly talented people who are doing amazing things on their campuses to develop highly effective next generation entrepreneurs. We learn from each other and we readily share best practices. The chance to be around such amazing individuals inspires us to continue pushing the limits of what we can and should be doing as entrepreneurship educators and researchers.

Question: If you could offer one piece of advice to someone attending a USASBE conference for the first time what would it be?

Get involved in USASBE early in your career. Meet the leadership (they are highly visible at the conference). Learn how the organization works. Choose a special interest group (SIG) and get involved in that community. Volunteer to take on special responsibilities to serve the organization throughout the year. The earlier you engage with USASBE, the more rewarding your experiences will be.

Question: Can you share a fun fact about yourself? Something that makes you unique?

While I do not have a musical bone nor the touch of an artist in my body, I love to hang around such creative people. While working on my doctorate at Virginia Tech, I lived on a 240 acre farm in an old farmhouse with a group of musicians and then with another crew in a house on the banks of the New River. There was always a music scene happening in both of these places. I had to pick up the guido (a percussion instrument) just to fit in with everyone else. It was then that I learned of the unique musical / drumming talents of my fellow doctoral student, Dr. Michael Morris. Since those times, Michael and I have played together in some loosely configured bands, with me just trying to act like I knew what I was doing.

I feel most creative professionally while listening to the music of Bruce Springsteen and the Grateful Dead. I am so lucky to have found a pretty little place in Southern California down San Diego way!!!! Yes, this has been and continues to be a long strange trip!

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