The Educator's Role in Unlocking Student Potential

NACCE Blog ,

In under-resourced communities, students often face an absence of opportunity. Education can help close this gap by providing the bridge for students to cross. But it is the educator, the teacher, the mentor, who helps students cross the bridge and embrace the world of possibility.

These savvy educators know that curriculum, coupled with a relational approach to teaching and the right tools, gives students the confidence they need to turn their passions into thriving business opportunities. Intuit is partnering with educators to provide the tools that inspire, influence and prepare their students for their futures.

Building empathy for the student experience

At the Hillsborough Community College (HCC) InLab, students enrolled in the entrepreneurship curriculum not only learn the fundamentals of good business, but also put them into practice by dreaming up and launching their own enterprises. From ideation to initial funding, students at HCC are mentored by successful entrepreneurs and community leaders to prepare them for real-world success.

Dr. Andy Gold came into education energized by the possibilities available to his students and certain that diversity is the key to a successful program. From the beginning, he was adamant not to include the word “entrepreneurship” in the title of his program so as not to limit the kinds of students interested in the coursework.

“We knew that to truly have an innovative culture, we had to be able to attract students, faculty, and community members across different areas of interest,” he said.

He understood entrepreneurship to be broad and wanted to ensure his students were invited in for their ideas and their passion, not just to build the next big business.

It’s through relationships with students that Dr. Gold witnessed the power of empathy. While he relayed countless stories of success, it was in his recollection of his failures that he grew closest to his students. By reminding them he was once, if not many times, in their shoes, working tirelessly to turn an idea into action, he was able to close any gap between them. In closing that gap, he’s built a foundation to introduce the tools and resources he provides throughout the program.

Integrating the real world into the classroom

Dr. Gold’s approach to teaching is relational, hands-on and accelerated. He builds one-on-one relationships and holds each student accountable to their own success, all the while giving them the tools they’ll need to succeed. He introduces tools like Intuit QuickBooks to students to help get their enterprises off the ground. However, he would caution that it’s how and when he introduces a real-world tool that makes a difference:

“I integrated into this small business accounting and finance course that we offer in entrepreneurship a whole bunch of simulations, simulated datasets so they can learn how to apply [the concepts]. Just using Excel, even before QuickBooks is introduced, [students learn how to] take random pieces of information and populate an income statement, a balance sheet, a cash flow statement, and so forth [...] QuickBooks will generate a lot of information for you, a lot of data, a lot of reports. But, if you don’t know how to interpret that information, if you don’t really know what it’s telling you, it’s of very little value.”

This has an immediate impact on students. Through HCC’s InLab, students can apply for initial funding to help scale their enterprises - if they use QuickBooks. “Just to apply for funding, you've got to have your company set up in QuickBooks. We make that a requirement because we don't want them to get funded and then delay integrating the technology that can really make their ability to make decisions more effective,” said Gold. With these small incentives, Dr. Gold and the teaching staff at HCC are nudging students to move their businesses forward with the most effective tools that will help them succeed outside of the academic environment.

The importance of mentorship

Many of us have individuals we look to for guidance and expertise, yet formal mentorship has become overlooked in recent years. Despite 71% of Fortune 500 companies offering mentoring programs, and 97% of mentees saying they are valuable relationships, it is surprising to see only 37% of professionals have a mentor. In the cases where mentorship is prioritized, we see valuable results, particularly between educators and their students.

Dr. Gold meets regularly with students to discuss their businesses, analyze figures on QuickBooks, and brainstorm future opportunities - even well after they’ve left the program. And it is making all the difference to alum Jason Hendricks who said, prior to HCC, “I never had a direct relationship with the professor. I just bounced around different colleges. But when I went to HCC and I met Dr. Gold, it was more of a personal approach. I just fell in love. I really fell in love with my passion to help other people.”

Hendricks is just one of many entrepreneurs that Dr. Gold is proud to influence today:

In the past eight or nine years, with the help of national partners like Intuit, we have built a nationally recognized entrepreneurship program at the community college level that I take enormous pride in. It's allowed me to revisit my childhood and provide a bridge of opportunity for people who grow up in these [under-resourced] communities. This opportunity at Hillsborough Community College has given me a chance to build that bridge. Jason [Hendricks] is just one of many students that we've been able to throw across the bridge to the other side safely and get them to pursue something that's meant so much to them. I will be forever indebted to this opportunity because it's been really profound for me.”

Through relational learning models, and real-life application, students have the potential to thrive. Dr. Gold is helping students unlock their full potential and turn passion into viable business opportunities.

Learn about the other ways Intuit’s products and methods can support your students


Intuit is partnering with NACCE to inspire students to achieve their goals. Through the recently launched Ambassador program, to building strong financial knowledge through the Financial Management for Entrepreneurs Curriculum Initiative, to teaching design thinking through Intuit’s unique Design for Delight curriculum, your students can develop the skills they need to build their career.