An Entrepreneurial Journey | Faculty in Focus

We sat down with UMBC’s Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Leadership program director and graduate faculty instructor, Gib Mason, and he shared his interesting career journey with us.

Tell us about your early educational journey?

I’m a 1995 graduate of UMBC’s Economics program and received a certificate in accounting. I graduated in the same year that my oldest son graduated from high school. Then, I finished my graduate degree at Johns Hopkins University the same year my youngest son finished college. There’s an educational bond that ties me and my sons together! My oldest and youngest son are fifteen years apart. So I embarked on my formal education, clearly, as an adult.

Prior to my formal education, I was an entrepreneur who experienced both significant successes and equally significant failures in the first 10 or 15 years of my entrepreneurial pursuits. Then, I studied accounting and became a CPA. I spent a few years in public accounting before diving back into the entrepreneurial world.

How did your entrepreneurial experience shape you as an instructor? 

I’ve spent the last twenty years or so in and out of several different industries. I’ve been in ten industries in my career. I have also owned many of the businesses that I’ve been associated with and have had both successes and failures not only before my education but after my education. There are underlying elements that certainly reside in me and my fellow instructors from these experiences. These academic underpinnings, the decades and decades of experience as entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders give us the theory behind how we think about entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership.

Can you talk about some of the courses you teach?

In the past, I’ve taught Entrepreneurial Mindset. This course provides participants with the tools necessary for applying entrepreneurial thinking in their work and life. Students learn concepts for handling the ambiguity inherent in every business plan. The course focuses on increasing a participant’s aptitude for adapting to unexpected circumstances as well as their openness to pursuing untried solutions and innovating within their field.

Design Thinking

I’ve also taught Design Thinking. This course involves having high-touch client interactions. This entails half a dozen trips to the client site, meeting with close to 80 employees as we went through and leveraged the tools of design thinking. The result was integrated action and a highly-applied learning opportunity. 

Leadership and Communication

Additionally, I’ve taught the Leadership and Communication course which is one of the required courses. That particular course is a deep dive into “who am I?” and “who am I as a leader, as an entrepreneur, as an innovator?” If a student doesn’t understand who they are, it’s almost impossible to lead a group of people, let alone a full organization. So in this course, we start at the individual level then we work to the team level, and finally to the organizational level. Students consider how they can best lead and communicate in those environments.

Capstone I and II

Currently, I teach Capstone I and II. The combination of the two-part capstone takes a feasible concept and develops each element to create an integrated plan. These courses leverage all the MPS coursework. Capstone 1 focuses on concept development, industry and market analysis, marketing and sales plan, financial plan, and the business model.

This course allows the student to develop their initial thinking in each of the aforementioned elements. Capstone II includes the development of management, operations, and launch plans. This course takes the students initial concept and brings it to reality. All the draft plans from Capstone 1 are integrated into a final business plan. The business plan is pitched at the Cangialosi Business Innovation Competition or to another appropriate audience.

Why do you teach two capstones?

A lot of people question why two separate capstones and why one is given early in the program and one late. From my experience in my graduate studies at Hopkins, I questioned why when we were going through all of these wonderful courses did they wait until the end for us to tie them together. I could have done a better job of applying my learning if I had started off with a capstone course. It would’ve been more meaningful for me. So that’s why we created a two-part capstone. We want to offer our students the very best tools and applications to help them be highly-successful in their endeavors.

What makes UMBC’s EIL program successful in your opinion?

As instructors, professors, and facilitators, we may be really good at what we do. With this in mind though, more than 50% of the value of the program is in how the students interact with one another and how the students interact with whomever the external client is. Peer to peer engagement is strong, and one of the greatest assets of this program. This program encourages action learning. So the opportunity for students to learn from each other is significant.

According to the Labor Insights employer-demand tool, the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson metro area has a higher demand than average for jobs requiring entrepreneurship, leadership, and innovation skills, with over 12,000 job postings listing one of these skills. Employers hiring for these skillsets include companies such as Northrop Grumman, Oracle, Johns Hopkins University and T. Rowe Price.

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