Collaboration, Conferences, and Serendipity

Collaboration, Conferences, and Serendipity


Webster defines serendipity as finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.”  In this spirit, faculty, students, and colleagues may be interested in learning about the networking and opportunities that arise by taking a chance to present at a conference.  In January 2016, several colleagues and I brainstormed about possible topics for a collaborative research endeavor and decided upon senior entrepreneurship (AARP, 2014; Isele, 2014; Stangler, 2014).


During the literature review, we stumbled upon Leuphana University’s call for papers which included a logical framework to structure the evolving research.  In September 2016, we submitted our abstract and looked forward to learning from the experience.  In October 2016, our proposal was accepted for presentation at the 7th Leuphana International Conference on Entrepreneurship in Lüneburg, Germany on January 19-21th, 2017.   


I was privileged to present our nascent research to participants of the Leuphana Conference, who shared our conviction that traditional concepts of retirement are perilously incorrect.   One Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences professor expressed interest in serving as guest speaker for the School of Advanced Studies and/or University Research Centers and is discussing options with SAS leadership.  The parallel conference presentations included a "Meet the Editors" session, featuring editors of the International Journal of Entrepreneurial Venturing, Journal of Small Business Management, and Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Emerging Economies (Alexander Brem and Jantje Halberstadt, Eddy Laveren, and Jay Mitra, respectively).  These editors reiterated the importance of rigorous methodology when submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals.  Their comments validated the relevance of the School of Advanced Studies' quality review process in preparing students to share research with the community of scholars. On March 1, 2017, conference participants were invited to submit papers to the International Journal of Entrepreneurial Venturing’s special issue on scaling social entrepreneurial impact, which our team has done.


In addition, Leuphana Conference participants were granted one-year membership in the European Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ECSB) and are invited to explore conference, presentation, and publication opportunities.   ECSB is a non-profit organization whose mission is to contribute to the understanding of entrepreneurship and to the improvement of the competitiveness of European small and medium size companies. With around 500 full members and a network of 3000 ECSB friends from 40 countries, ESCB is the largest pan-European association of researchers, educators and practitioners in entrepreneurship.


Elizabeth Isele, a seminal thought leader and CEO of the Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship (GIEE), invites partners to help collect, aggregate, analyze, and publish quantitative and qualitative data to measure the social and economic impact of senior and multigenerational entrepreneurship. As University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies faculty and researchers, our team reached out to Elizabeth to learn more about contributing to the GIEE collaboratory.  She responded via email and telephone, providing additional information on the GIEE’s September 2016 "Re-Engineering the 21st Century Workforce" initiative with the University of Oxford.   


The GIEE uses Entrepreneurial Thought and Action® as a lens to reframe challenges and generate actionable ideas predicated on modeling the Experience Incubator® methodology (E. Isele, personal communication, November 18, 2014): 

  • ET&A® and the catalytic effect of combining it with improvisation to create rapid ideation.

  • Decoding entrepreneurial history.

  • Design thinking to create a prototype solution to re-engineer the workforce to catalyze and optimize cross-generational experience. 

In addition to partnerships between AARP, the Small Business Administration, and Kauffman Foundation, the Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship is reframing engagement, retention, and productivity by promoting “Age Smart Employers” (GIEE, 2016):  

  • Ernst & Young leads by example; data indicated higher corporate returns, with 20% productivity when a company fosters mentoring across generations in the workplace (GIEE, 2016).

  • Munich-based Siemens launched a “cross-mentoring” process, defined as older employees exchanging insights with younger employees for updates on the latest skills (GIEE, 2016).

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides resources to promote senior entrepreneurs creating green businesses (GIEE, 2016).

  • The United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director, UN Women and the Chatham House Group, is using GIEE recommendations to develop policy priorities for the World Economic Forum in Davos and influence how W20 may use evidence-based advocacy to encourage inclusive growth strategies in G20 countries (GIEE, 2016).

In March 2017, Elizabeth invited our team to partner with her on research she may be orchestrating at Chatham House.  My point? Collaboration and conferences can lead to serendipity!




AARP. (2014, February 12). Statement for the record submitted to the Special Committee on Aging and Committee on Aging and Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship

U.S. Senate on: In search of a second act: The challenges and advantages of senior entrepreneurship. Retrieved from


Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship. (2016). Engage with us. Retrieved from


Isele, E. (2014, February 12). Testimony of Elizabeth Isele. Submitted to the Senate Special Committee on Aging and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee before their JOINT HEARING: In Search of a Second Act: The Challenges and Advantages of Senior Entrepreneurship.  


Stangler, D. (2014, February 12). In search of a second act: The challenges and advantages of senior entrepreneurship: Testimony before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging & the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Kauffman Foundation. Retrieved from



Lynne Devnew's picture Lynne Devnew | March 27, 2017 1:19 pm MST

Hi Louise,

I read your post with great interest as my "long term" goal is to do research on leadership of post-retirement women and I wonder whether at some junction there is an overlap.  I'll be very interested to read your study results as it moves into later stages.  

Some of my local colleagues are very involved in women and entrepreneurship research.  The "leader" of the group is Candida Brush, a neighbor and colleague while I was at Boston University who is now a full professor and Vice Provost at Babson.  Candy was a member of the Diana study, early researchers in women and entrepreneurship.  I can help with some networking contacts if that becomes an advantage at some point.  

Very exciting!  






Louise Underdahl's picture Louise Underdahl | March 27, 2017 4:03 pm MST

Hi Lynne,

Thank you for sharing my interest in this topic.  Networking contacts are invaluable for researchers and our team is grateful for your collegiality.  We are currently analyzing the potential of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty's "new collar" jobs, Career Technical Education, and apprenticeship for senior and intergenerational entrepreneurship. 

If we may contribute to your "long term" goal of researching leadership of post-retirement women, please grant us the opportunity.  Entrepreneurship and meaningful endeavor epitomize win/win responses to demographic and economic challenges.  Exciting, indeed!


Lynne Devnew's picture Lynne Devnew | March 28, 2017 5:46 am MST

What fun, Louise.  You are actually studying corporate entrepreneurship or venturing within established firms, not entrepreneurship!  I developed and taught an MBA course on that, following an independent study used to design the course, while at Boston University for my doctorate and it is a segment in the doctoral seminar I facilitate now (MGT716 - Management Philosophies).  I have most of the foundational  work on intrapreneurship/corporate venturing/corporate entrepreneurship sitting in my library and a lecture I'll send on to you that I still use peripherally in MGT716.

I was involved with IBM's exploration into Independent Business Units (IBU) in the mid-80s.  I was in corporate business planning in Armonk, New York during the introduction of the personal computer - the classic early example of IBU success.  A few years later I was part of the team planning and executing the IBU for our entry into the application software business.

My dissertation involved the new corporate ventures (structured in MANY different ways) of consumer catalog companies' entrances into e-commerce with the introduction of the Internet- and surfaced some of the huge challenges corporate venturing leaders face that independent entrepreneurs don't.

I have lots of insight into what helps lead such ventures to succeed or failure.  

I don't know anything about the new IBM venturing projects you are studying today so am really looking forward to reading about your study.

Louise Underdahl's picture Louise Underdahl | March 28, 2017 11:08 am MST

Hi Lynne,

Thank you for sharing your wealth of experience, insight, resources, and wisdom.  Understanding "what helps lead such ventures to succeed or failure" is vital.  As Santayana observed, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  Critical thinkers are privileged to both remember and learn from the past.

Each day brings new opportunities.  As an example, the Office of American Innovation (OAI) was created on March 27, 2017 to work with private-sector and other external thought leaders in developing policies to improve quality of life and stimulate job creation (White House, 2017).  The OAI agenda includes enhancing services to veterans, addressing the drug and opioid epidemic, and developing “workforce of the future” programs (White House, 2017).
While the U.S. Department of Labor reports over 500,000 open jobs in technology-related sectors (Rommety, 2016), the evolving nature of work has created positions that "demand new skills – which in turn requires new approaches to education, training and recruiting" (Rommety, 2016, para. 3).   The prospects are bright for senior and intergenerational entrepreneurs!
Rometty, G. (2016, December 13). We need to fill 'new collar' jobs that employers demand: IBM's Rometty.  USA Today. Retrieved from
The White House. (2017, March 27). Office of the Press Secretary:  President announces the White House Office of American Innovation (OAI).  Retrieved from


Diana Hart's picture Diana Hart | May 3, 2017 6:26 pm MST

Thanks Dr. Underdahl,

It was great coming here and reading something by someone I know! I found your article to be interesting because I am looking for ways to get my name out now that I FINALLY received my doctorate (May, 2016). I know it takes time, but there are many ideas I've gained from this and other articles. I understand what you mean by networking and being open to ideas that may come...even when you aren't looking. Thanks again for this great article.


Dr. Diana Hart

Louise Underdahl's picture Louise Underdahl | May 3, 2017 7:35 pm MST

Hi Dr. Hart,

Congratulations on your May 2016 academic achievement!  Thank you for your kind words and willingness to actively engage with the community of scholars.  Have you considered affiliating with one of the Research Centers?  You might be interested in the SAS Alumni Fellowship, which is described by Executive Dean Hinrich Eylers as follows:

We're always looking for ways to help our alumni rise even further. I'm excited to announce a new research funding program for University of Phoenix researchers — the SAS Alumni Fellowship. As a way to recognize the ongoing research efforts of our alumni, we're giving three to five SAS graduates like you the opportunity to make use of the research skills you learned in your doctoral program. 
The fellowship will allow you to work on a research project with a Research Center that matches your interests. Since this is our first year funding the program, we'll accept applications through May 30th. Three to five selected projects will receive funding of $3,000 or $5,000. We'll then review the program to find out how well it performed and if there's enough interest to keep it going.  For more information about the program or to submit an application, visit the SAS Alumni Fellowship page on the Research Hub.
Maureen Marzano's picture Maureen Marzano | May 10, 2017 11:36 am MST

Hello Louise,


I enjoyed reading about yout reseratch project and how far collaboration on one project developed into international collaborations and future opportunities. Do you have any recommendations for forming a colloboration to explore research interest that can take form besides looking i the research center for calls for participants?



Louise Underdahl's picture Louise Underdahl | May 12, 2017 3:36 pm MST

Hi Maureen,

Do you have any recommendations for forming a collaboration to explore research interest that can take form besides looking in the research center for calls for participants?

Thank you for asking!  Allow me to share a number of strategies that have helped me identify collaborative partnerships:

  • Invite dissertation students to continue collaborative research initiatives
  • Reach out to alumni and suggest potential research topics
  • Network with faculty colleagues interested in conducting research and invite them to participate in partnerships
  • Identify potential research partners during faculty workshops, GFM/CAMs, conferences
  • Attend UOPX SAS Knowledge Without Boundaries events
  • Monitor discussion groups and websites on topics of interest to identify potential partners; once identified, email and/or call them - communication works!

I hope these ideas make sense - I welcome comments from others!



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