Donna DeCarolis, Drexel University’s founding Dean of the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, was the 14th honored recipient of the Iris Newman Award during the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs annual gala at the World Live Cafe on Nov. 16.
The Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs is the Mid-Atlantic region’s largest organization dedicated to promoting prominent businesses led or established by women. The AWE annually awards a woman entrepreneur the Iris Newman Award in honor of Iris Newman, a founder of AWE. Each year, the award commemorates a leading woman in business who has a strong commitment to helping women entrepreneurs.
This is the first year AWE recognized an educator, emphasizing their belief of the power of education. DeCarolis empowers all university students with the belief that they can be entrepreneurs. “Education has a responsibility to teach college students how to be entrepreneurs in their life and career profession,” she said.
DeCarolis acts as a proponent of entrepreneur education through her roles as founding Dean of the Close School of Entrepreneurship, Associate Dean and Management Department Head at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business, and Associate Vice Provost for Entrepreneur Education, overseeing all academic entrepreneurial offerings and student activities at Drexel. In 2003, she received the Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching. DeCarolis also discusses trends in entrepreneurship and leadership as a weekly business commentator on KWY Newsradio in Philadelphia. She has also contributed to the publications including Forbes, Business Week, The Philadelphia Business Inquirer, and The Philadelphia Business Journal.
DeCarolis said that the establishment of the Close School of Entrepreneurship is the biggest accomplishment in her career so far. The school, announced in January 2013, is the nation’s first freestanding and degree granting school of entrepreneurship. The founding of the Close School represents a different business model in that it teaches students both the process of entrepreneurship and how to be an entrepreneur, compared to business schools that just focus on the process of entrepreneurship. Studies have shown that millennials have an increased interest in entrepreneurship and strive to work for companies they have a passion for. The Close School prepares its students for the real world by addressing demand in a more modern way than what has been traditionally been done. The school contains 35 brand new courses such as Mitigating Risk and Dealing with Failure.
Historically, there used to be a lack of funding for women entrepreneurs. DeCarolis believes that both internal and external factors contribute to women entrepreneurs lagging behind men. Externally, studies have shown that men are constantly preferred over women in the business realm for promotions and higher-level positions. Internally, there is a constant lack of confidence. Women tend to be more critical of themselves than men, believing that they may not be good enough, and thereby preventing them from further success. The Close School encourages as many female students as possible to take classes from its school and broaden their interests. “In my view,” DeCarolis said, “It’s a wonderful experience to start something. The Close School is not just confined to business, but is all over the university from designers and gamers, to writers and nurses. Through programing, my vision is to encourage, inspire, and attract men and women to come to The Close School to help them experience entrepreneurship.”
Speaking on the Iris Newman Award, DeCarolis said, “Getting this award was never expected and I think it is probably one of the most significant and meaningful things that has ever happened to me because it validates my beliefs in entrepreneurship and what we’re doing here in the Close School. And I think in a larger scale it just says education is a powerful force in shaping the entrepreneurial mind.”
DeCarolis commonly presents on leadership and innovation and has had her research appear in journals such as the Strategic Management Journal, the Journal of Management and Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice. Prior to her career at Drexel, DeCarolis served as a lobbyist and a strategy consultant. She earned a doctoral degree from Temple University in strategic management and an MBA from Villanova University.