It didn't take long for the students assembled in the Murdough Center on a cold January morning to see the ways in which Rafael La Porta's new International Entrepreneurship course was going to be different.
For one, there were only 15 students. And La Porta, Noble Foundation Professor of Finance, wasn't the one leading the first class presentation. It was Andrew Bunton T'09, one of his students.
International Entrepreneurship was the first in a wave of new Research-to-Practice Seminars at Tuck—small-scale courses designed to give students insight into a real business issue while teaching them general methods of intellectual inquiry. The seminars are a key component of the school's current five-year strategic plan, Tuck 2012, which builds on Tuck's distinctive strengths, including its high level of faculty-student interaction.
The spring term brought two more seminars: Senior Associate Dean Bob Hansen's course on the credit crisis, and one on managing diversity, by Tuck organizational behavior professor Judith White. Hansen expects that five or six more will be offered during the 2009-2010 academic year.
The seminars are intended to demonstrate the link between faculty research and the application of research results and claims to the practice of management—hence the concept's name. The idea, explains Hansen, is to bring small groups of second-year students together with top faculty for a "deep dive" into a specific topic, while also helping students "see the way scholars go about the business of knowledge creation." Such a venture is only possible at a school like Tuck, where the research faculty and teaching faculty are one and the same, he notes.
In La Porta's seminar, students examined the myriad factors involved in establishing a new entrepreneurial venture outside the United States, in markets whose legal, regulatory, and financial systems can differ significantly. Students took the lead role, giving presentations on research papers and case studies that classmates would then dissect. It was up to La Porta to manage the conversation, offer his own insights, and challenge the students, all with the goal of helping them become better at analyzing research frameworks, interpreting findings, and turning those interpretations into smart business decisions.
La Porta confesses to some initial skepticism about the seminar's format. But he says teaching it made a believer out of him, in part because of what the students learn but more so because of the way that they learn it. "Students may forget the content," he says. "But they won't forget this disciplined approach. It's very exciting."