The TE(a)CH Doctor – Making Lemonade Out of a Crisis

Posted By: Dr. Christine Mollenkopf-Pigsley NACCE Blog,

Everyone knows the proverbial phrase, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. “Lemonade,” one the five principles of effectuation, loosely translates to: when the unexpected happens, uncover opportunities and knowledge that come your way. Entrepreneurship is something of an experiment in which the first attempt rarely succeeds. Lemonade is the uncovering of opportunities and knowledge that come from these problems or failures. So, what better time than a global pandemic to look inside our organizations and use our resources to make positive and impactful changes?

The COVID-19 crisis quickly made virtual learning, including entrepreneurship education, a necessity and required all of us to dramatically change the we way we manage our classrooms, departments, centers, and institutions from a distance.

I’ve taken the opportunity to create a lemonade “recipe” here to sustain or expand your organization and academic programs during these challenging times.

1. EMBRACE ONLINE AND REACH OUT TO DROPOUTS. The move to online courses because of the virus introduced new modes of accomplishing what had been done in the classroom, including online labs, virtual dissection, online testing, and remote group work. Take all that learning and consider making more programs online even when going back into the classroom. Then go back to your list of previous students who dropped out and offer them new options to complete their program if they cannot come to campus or need more asynchronous options to meet their family and work obligations. You are likely to bring back some who have dropped out and retain others who are challenged to come back in the fall. My business mentor always told me “it’s easier to keep a customer, than to go out and find a new one.”

2. INCREASE CREDIT FOR PRIOR LEARNING OPTIONS. You are likely working with AP testing with incoming freshman, but have you considered offering credits for professionals who have existing certifications and technical credentials who are seeking to retool their career for the new normal? If you have an independent study course in your catalog, then you could offer CPL through a portfolio or demonstration of learning. Look within your college policies to see what test out options exist that could offer a student credits at a lower cost and without the time needed to take the course.

3. CONSIDER PARTIAL ARTICULATIONS AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO SCHOLARSHIPS. Scholarships can be tricky and there are lots of factors to be considered, including the management of them (e.g. faculty members soliciting and evaluating applications). I discovered when working with high school faculty that often students came in with some but not all the core competencies needed to skip taking key courses in programs, especially those in the trades or technology areas. By establishing partial articulations with our high school partners, the students still were required to take the course, but they only paid for a portion of the credits (for example one of three credits). The students were being offered a scholarship alternative without having all the paperwork, which increased our equity and our faculty engagement with K-12. What could you do with a high school accounting or business teacher to create a pathway that leads to your entrepreneurship or business program and make your college a preferred destination for their students?

4. LAUNCH NEW NICHE PROGRAMS/CERTIFICATES. The pandemic has many people working from home at least part of the time, and yet many workplaces have not done any professional development around virtual teamwork. Take a look at all your programs on campus. Could you build a short certificate in topics like virtual collaboration, remote team leadership, virtual customer service, social media marketing, e-commerce, or consulting management that utilizes existing curriculum with some additional elements or tweaks? These certificates can be made student-aid eligible and may be more preferable for your employment or workforce agencies to fund with dislocated worker funds because they can be completed quickly as a timely workforce credential for individuals who may already have a college degree.

New public health realities bring new opportunities to combine disciplines into new training such as contact tracing where you combine GIS with medical terminology and first responder skills. This is where relationships with county and state government and public safety agencies can provide insight and potential teamwork to help them retrain workers who have worked in other areas that are limited due to social distancing.       

5. ENGAGE EMPLOYERS & ENTREPRENEURS. Yes, I know your college or organization has great relationships with the community and employers, but now is the time to go back and offer free consulting sessions with your faculty and staff to help them in areas where they haven’t been connected previously. Entrepreneurship and Business faculty can help trucking or construction firms that only know the trades faculty. Entrepreneurs and small businesses may need help from Computer Science to help them with their work-from-home transitions, and Sociology faculty can assist with some of the racial justice tensions in our communities. Consider having Nursing or other Health faculty assist employers who are developing their pandemic planning and return-to-work strategies. Your college will be remembered as one that went above and beyond, and the word-of-mouth advertising is priceless.


Dr. Christine Pigsley

Assistant Professor, Applied Leadership

Minnesota State University Mankato

About the Author: The TE(a)CH Doctor is Christine Pigsley, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Applied Leadership at Minnesota State University Mankato. She has been teaching entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship virtually since 2010 both at the community college and university level. Pigsley also provides NACCE’s online E-ship Specialist Certificate training and has served as microenterprise and small business curriculum developer, SBDC director, and microfinance specialist in Minnesota and Iowa.