Faculty Internships Nurture Cultures of Innovation

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Wednesday, October 11, 2023
By Raul V. Rodriguez, Debdutta Choudhury
Photo by iStock/Liudmyla Supynska
By encouraging faculty to pursue internships and entrepreneurial ventures, Woxsen University enriches both its innovation ecosystem and student learning.
  • Internships and entrepreneurship allow faculty to step out of their academic roles to immerse themselves in the operations of real-world enterprises, gaining valuable insights into industry dynamics.
  • The knowledge that faculty gain through internship experience and venture creation can lead to the development of new classroom simulations and materials, case studies, white papers, and knowledge-transfer projects.
  • By building a base of rich experiential knowledge, faculty are better able to enhance student learning, inspire students to develop entrepreneurial mindsets, and spark innovation throughout the larger community.


Students are at the heart of any university’s mission and educational focus, and faculty members obviously play pivotal roles in shaping the mindsets and nurturing the entrepreneurial aspirations of these future leaders. Therefore, it makes sense for universities to foster the same business knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit in faculty as they desire to instill in students. 

We know that faculty become better teachers when they have real-world experience to share. At the Woxsen University School of Business in Hyderabad, India, we enable this form of faculty development in two ways. First, we encourage faculty to participate in internships that the school helps to arrange. Second, we provide faculty with the time and resources to pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures. In both cases, faculty can use the knowledge they gain from their outside activities to enrich their classrooms and do good in the community.

By making these opportunities permanent parts of our academic culture, we strive to create an educational ecosystem where professors have opportunities to gain valuable professional experience. Through this real-world exposure, professors do not just bring authentic and relevant perspectives about business operations and entrepreneurship into the classroom. They also become powerful examples that enrich the learning experience for students and foster a culture of innovation throughout the institution.

Matching Faculty With Internship Opportunities

Our faculty internship program serves as an industry initiation program. It’s designed primarily for faculty who lack prior corporate experience and need greater exposure to the day-to-day operations of companies. By immersing themselves in the operations of real-world enterprises, faculty gain valuable insights into industry dynamics and market trends.

Faculty internship experiences are identified and arranged by our Dean’s Office and Strategic Partnerships Office. These offices identify and arrange these experiences for faculty just as we do for students—by leveraging our institution’s close relationships with corporate partners, which range from startups to multinational corporations.

Internships are determined by matching the professors’ preferences with companies that have short-listed those same academicians. Most faculty secure opportunities with small and medium-sized enterprises across the country.

To make time for these experiences, faculty are allowed to reduce their teaching loads by up to 20 percent, subject to the necessary approvals. During the entire internship process, faculty members remain salaried employees of the school; they do not receive honorariums from the companies where they serve.

Faculty internships and faculty entrepreneurship support an educational ecosystem where professors have opportunities to gain valuable professional experience.

Internships are full-time positions requiring eight-hour workdays, and they last anywhere from 45 days to six months—the length of the experience depends on a faculty member’s seniority and workload, as well as the host company’s needs. During their internships, faculty work with middle managers to complete responsibilities related to their fields. A finance professor, for example, might work in areas such as stock advising or portfolio management.

Over the last 15 months, 11 faculty members have completed internships. These professors include Debalina Ghosh, an assistant professor, who also has an interest in conservation architecture. She recently completed an internship with Neeta Shubhrajit Das Associates, an architectural firm in Kolkata that specializes in conservation.

Padmaja Bhujabal, an assistant professor in the areas of international finance, developmental economics, and sustainability, interned with Mumbai-based NYUCT Design Labs, which helps business founders design new ventures that solve problems and have impact. Bikash Pradhan, an assistant professor in our department of analytics, interned with AISlash, a company that has developed an online writing assistant powered by artificial intelligence.

It’s not just academics who want to expand their experience through internships. Several of our Executive Fellows, who are corporate professionals selected to help the school align its strategy and curriculum with the needs of industry, also complete internships. In this case, some of our fellows want to augment their industry expertise so that they can contribute even more meaningfully to the school and the community. These experiences also can prepare them to join the school as clinical faculty or professors of practice.

Driving Entrepreneurial Action

We also offer reduced teaching loads to faculty who would like to found startups and gain first-hand understanding of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs. In the process, they establish networks with industry experts, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists, which fosters collaborations that benefit both the academic environment and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Each year, members of our faculty launch approximately two ventures, company prototypes, or entrepreneurial projects. These academics can apply for seed grants, which are sourced from private and public entities; they also can turn to Woxsen’s incubator, called the Trade Tower, for help and resources. These resources include but are not limited to connections to potential investors and assistance with tasks such as establishing intellectual property rights and registering new companies.

Some faculty projects combine entrepreneurial development and societal impact. For example, a faculty member recently initiated the Rural Entrepreneurship Project. As part of this initiative, a team of faculty, staff, and students help rural entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

Another professor is working on a project in Telangana, the state where our university is located. The project involves refashioning woolen gongadi shawls—woven by members of Telangana’s indigenous Karuma and Kuruba communities—into ergonomic shoes for farmers. This project provides a product that accomplishes two goals: It reuses a local resource, and it supports low-income farmers by addressing several physiotherapeutic difficulties this community may encounter.

Making Profound Learning Experiences Possible

As mentioned above, a significant advantage of giving faculty time to pursue internships and entrepreneurship is the experiential learning faculty bring to the classroom. Faculty often draw from their experiences to develop classroom simulations and other educational materials.

The overall impact of this exposure on students can be profound. The practical knowledge faculty members share equips students with the skills, strategies, and insights needed to navigate the entrepreneurial landscape. Moreover, when students hear of their professors’ entrepreneurial journeys and learn from their professors’ successes and failures, they are inspired to think creatively, take risks, and develop entrepreneurial mindsets themselves.

Faculty who launch their own enterprises can choose to involve students in their venture development or include student contributions as part of classroom assessment.

By gaining first-hand experience with companies, faculty members also can be better mentors, guiding students in their own entrepreneurial endeavors, providing feedback, and connecting them with relevant resources and networks. This personalized support enhances the students’ learning experience and increases their chances of success.

In fact, faculty who launch their own enterprises can even choose to involve students in their venture development. Or they can include student contributions to their ventures as part of the classroom assessment related to relevant learning modules, as long as those contributions align with our chosen learning outcomes and quality controls.

Benefits Beyond the Classroom

Faculty internships and faculty entrepreneurial ventures also result in several benefits that extend beyond the classroom. First, these experiences advance faculty’s own professional development and often inspire the creation of new case studies, white papers, and knowledge-transfer projects.

Second, some faculty parlay their internship experiences into the procurement of venture funding. For example, three assistant professors of data analytics recently completed internships with AppsTek Corp., a software company based in Hyderabad. They now are using what they learned there to work on commercial data science projects. So far, these projects have attracted venture funding amounting to 24 lakh INR (approximately 29,000 USD).

Finally, as faculty immerse themselves in real-world business environments and entrepreneurial activities, they contribute to the vibrancy of the local and regional entrepreneurial ecosystems. Their expertise, mentorship, and industry connections play a crucial role in nurturing startups, fostering innovation, and driving economic development. By actively engaging with the startup community, faculty members become catalysts for change and create ripple effects that permeate throughout the university and beyond.

Enriching Our Ecosystem

Most business school administrators encourage faculty to think about the institution in terms of “Where are we now, and where we are going from here.” With this mindset, professors are primed to originate new proposals that link back to the core pillars of the university—back to fundamental mission-based principles such as ethics, responsibility, and sustainability.

At Woxsen University, faculty internships and entrepreneurship play a pivotal role in cultivating and activating this mindset. These experiences put faculty in better positions to inspire students and prepare them for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

By adopting initiatives that encourage faculty to immerse themselves in real-world business environments and activities, business schools can foster a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem and build stronger cultures of innovation. In other words, such initiatives give faculty the space to truly “practice what they teach,” in ways that help them drive economic growth, make a positive societal impact, and nurture the entrepreneurial leaders of tomorrow.

Raul V. Rodriguez
Steven Pinker Professor of Cognitive Psychology and Vice President, School of Business, Woxsen University
Debdutta Choudhury
Associate Dean of Accreditations and Assurance of Learning, School of Business, Woxsen University
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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