Title:CEO alumnus helps create experiential learning opportunity

Author: Kate Colwell
Date Published: April 26, 2022
sketch image of person wearing vr headset
Image: iStock

In February 2021, Alan Gould (SFS’83, Parent’24), founder and CEO of the AI marketing startup MutualMarkets, pitched a “crazy idea” to Georgetown. He wanted to give students experience in real-time problem solving at a startup. Six weeks later—in part- nership with professors Jeff Reid and Randy Bass—Gould’s vision came to life in the form of the Entrepreneurship Journey Fellow- ship, an experiential learning course.

“I was trying to bridge the gap between an internship and academic knowledge, and I was in a unique position to advance this idea,” Gould says. “I asked my team if they would agree to be observed in real time, and then share the challenges that the company was facing.”

Academic programs in diplomacy or international relations could benefit from creativity, innovation, and risk-taking.

Bass, vice president for strategic education initiatives and leader of the Red House incubator for curricular transformation, de- scribed the course as a “microcosm of porous teaching between the classroom and real-world activity.” He says the course provided real-time learning, the ability to engage with alumni expertise, an opportunity to be on the inside of the process, and flexibility of modality between the classroom and Zoom. “It was also an experiment that was very much of the pandemic adaptation moment.”

Gould credits the professors he had as a student in the School of Foreign Service for pushing him to think differently. He has served on the School of Foreign Service Board of Advisors for a number of years, and after judging the “Bark Tank” alumni pitch competition at John Carroll Weekend in Seattle in 2018, he began considering ways to incorporate entrepreneurship into the wider Georgetown curriculum.

“Entrepreneurship, at its core, is a way of thinking,” Gould says. “Academic programs in diplomacy or international relations could benefit from creativity, innovation, and risk-taking.”

Both undergraduate and graduate students have taken the course from across Georgetown McDonough, the SFS, the College, and the School of Continuing Studies, and several from the first cohort have stayed involved as teaching assistants for the second and third cohorts.

Students engage asynchronously with MutualMarkets—a fully remote company that holds meetings in virtual reality—via weekly video recordings and may soon interview employees via VR headsets. They have researched how to raise the startup’s next round of venture capital and how to approach a different market segment, and presented possible answers to both challenges.

Additionally, the students have explored ethical dilemmas, such as how to balance empathy and responsibility when letting go of an employee.

“Georgetown’s version of the entrepreneurial mindset includes values-based entrepreneurship,” says Reid, founding director of the Georgetown University Entrepreneurship Initiative. “The Entrepreneurship Journey Fellowship allows students to walk slowly and thoughtfully through some of these decisions, because that’s where values meet the world.”

Reid credits alumni donors for helping make curricular innovation possible. “We could not have created this course, and delivered this experience for our students, without the philanthropic support that’s been provided by alumni through the Red House,” he says, crediting philanthropy with facilitating programs that are “new and creative and outside the norm.”

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