Why the Tenured Entrepreneur?

This whole idea was inspired by this Chronicle of Higher Education column, which was prompted by this Chronicle of Higher Education Vitae piece. For months, I tussled with the ideas clearly articulated in these two articles.

I have the freedom of tenure and working in a department that didn’t chain everyone to a desk for 10 hours a day, but freedom comes at a cost–a financial hit for working at a public institution that has grown exponentially but has increased demands on faculty and staff working with decreased budgets. The challenges of growing and developing new skills, while cherished in other organizations, is a lost concept in academia. Moving into new positions, including administration, are not practical for me. Along with my post-tenure career, my income has stagnated. Pay raises are rhetorical constructions, and if those raises do appear, it’s miniscule. Although I enjoy research and teaching, I felt compelled to do something else that stretched my intellectual abilities as well as padded my pockets.

The idea of treating the university as a client intrigued me, but the concept of the tenured entrepreneur hit me in the head like a ton of bricks. I know tenured faculty, graduate students, alt-academic staff, and contingent faculty who started businesses to supplement income. Some of these people switched to doing that work full-time, and others found balance between their academic life and their businesses. That’s what I wanted.

But where do I start? I read the books and blogs. I signed up for email lists. I listened to podcasts and watched videos. I gleaned useful information, and I learned a lot from a variety of people. Something was missing as I started doing my research. None of the books spoke to my experience as someone who had a full-time, all-encompassing job like a professor. Few of the books captured the issue of juggling a full-time, all-encompassing job with the pains (and joys) of starting up a business. I couldn’t find anything beyond the few Vitae and Inside Higher Education articles that spoke to the concerns I had.

A Fran Lebowitz quotation sums up the idea of this site:

Every intention, every achievement has come out of dissatisfaction, not serenity. No one ever said, “Things are perfect. Let’s invent fire.”

How perfect and fitting for this speck of the online universe. This site is born from frustration and hope. I plan on working my way through my entrepreneurship journey, and if what I am learning and doing can help someone else in the academy, that is even better.

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