Faculty Profile – Professor in Entrepreneurship
“Entrepreneurs don’t fail, ideas do,” said Alex Kier, associate professor of entrepreneurship. “The entrepreneur keeps moving forward.”
Kier is the newest Carson College of Business full-time faculty member, joining WSU Vancouver in July 2017. A native of Allentown, Pa., he first migrated to the University of Arizona to attend college. There he met his Seattle-born wife and began visiting the Pacific Northwest. “I love the Pacific Northwest,” Kier said. “It’s one of the prettiest places to live, and the people here are so friendly and at the same time kind of spunky.”
But getting here wasn’t a straight shot. After completing his education in accounting and audit, Kier went on to work at PricewaterhouseCoopers for a year, then became a forensic accounting consultant for Grant Thornton. Working long hours, traveling and living out of a hotel room “just sort of took over my life,” he said. So he started researching other options.
He tried to remember when he had felt most fulfilled. He had toyed with the idea of starting his own small business. After all, what he loved about consulting was seeing the way different businesses ran and the decisions executives were making. Yet, having had good experiences with research and teaching in college and graduate school, he was also drawn to teaching. After conducting more than 25 informational interviews with colleagues and mentors about their livelihoods, Kier decided teaching was it.
He didn’t want to leave his love of business behind, so he chose entrepreneurship as his focus. His timing couldn’t have been better. Entrepreneurship as a field of study has grown in recent years. With the nation seemingly moving toward a gig economy and with the success of shows like Shark Tank, where small business owners seek investments, more and more people are going into business for themselves. For Kier, this is the perfect time to encourage students to study entrepreneurship.
KEEP MOVING FORWARD
Kier takes an innovative approach to teaching. “My classroom is 100 percent experiential,” he said. “We do a lot of exercises to get the students out of their comfort zone and learn not to be afraid to take chances. Successful entrepreneurs are constantly pivoting and making changes.”
WSU Vancouver began offering its entrepreneurship major in fall 2016. There is also a big push to recruit students majoring in other disciplines to minor in entrepreneurship. Indeed, entrepreneurship compliments many disciplines, because its core teachings are based on integrating new ideas in any given area of the real world. “Entrepreneurship is about learning to think innovatively,” Kier said.
True, Kier said, you don’t need a degree in entrepreneurship to become an entrepreneur, but he added, “You also didn’t used to need a degree in business to work in business. A hundred years ago, business schools didn’t exist. People said ‘business isn’t something you learn, it’s something you do.’” Now learning about business from an accredited business school is the standard in corporate success stories.
Kier hopes the same thing will happen to entrepreneurship. “A degree in entrepreneurship can point you in the right direction and make sure you don’t fall off the cliff,” he said. “It’s a teachable discipline.”
Originally published in Carson College of Business newsletter, Cougar Tracks