“Experiential entrepreneurship” drives first-year curriculum

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Each site in Northeastern’s global network boasts its own programmatic theme, and at least for the 2023–24 academic year, the Mills campus will be characterized by the tenets of “experiential entrepreneurship.” 

According to academic officials, the theme extends beyond the business world. “It’s a set of skills, knowledge, and motivations that we want students to take away from the experience,” said Associate Dean Christie Chung at a faculty/staff meeting in May. “This is really a mindset that’s an innovative and creative way to solve problems in society.” 

A major touchstone of the theme is a set of off-site days scheduled in October when students will visit with organizations that align with their interests; as of press time, those organizations range from global companies to local nonprofits, including Kaiser Permanente, Checkerspot, and Kapor Capital. Those visits, known as Experiential Treks, are being organized by three areas:

• Technology, Creativity, and Ethics (directed by Professor of Music James Fei) 

• Health and Well-Being (directed by Professor of Psychology Liz Bachen) 

• Sustainability and Food Security (directed by Mills Community Farm Manager Julia Dashe) 

The theme of “experiential entrepreneurship”— and its three subdivisions—will also be visible in other areas of campus. First-year four-year students have been grouped into residential communities according to their subject areas. 

There are also plans to bring speakers to campus to address related topics, and every Global Scholar must take a foundational course that aligns with their subject area—helping them adapt to the world of higher education. (Those courses include Sex, Gender, and Popular Culture; Introduction to Languages and Literature; and Music in Everyday Life.) 

Additional co-curricular activities will include a maker fair and student-led entrepreneurship clubs. Though the academic year started with a great deal of programming already on the schedule, officials emphasized that students will still have opportunities to drive supplemental projects as desired.  

New head of entrepreneurship comes to campus 

Overseeing entrepreneurship-related student initiatives is Shea Tate-Di Donna, who took on the newly created (and Oakland-based) position of head of entrepreneurship this past summer. A graduate of Dickinson College—where she majored in English and psychology— and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Tate-Di Donna has an extensive background in business creation and venture capital. 

Her career in startups is extensive: She founded and served as CEO of Zana, a video platform that was acquired by Startups.com in 2015, and she was part of the founding team and senior vice president at True Ventures, which provided funding to companies such as WordPress, Goodreads, and Fitbit. Tate-Di Donna’s list of initiatives includes programs that provided education and support to aspiring venture managers from a variety of backgrounds, and those that examined women’s access to capital resources. 

This is not Tate-Di Donna’s first foray into the higher-ed space; while Zana was in its early stages, she taught a course called Design Your Startup at Stanford University’s d.school, and she co-authored the book The Venture Fund Blueprint in 2022.