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Studying the Social Entrepreneurs

Jill Kickul wrote the book on social entrepreneurship. Literally.

February 13, 2019
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Jill Kickul, professor of clinical entrepreneurship and research director for the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, joined the USC Marshall faculty in August 2016 after stints at New York University’s Stern School of Business, Miami University (Ohio), Simmons College, and DePaul University. To say her 25 years in academia have been influential would be an understatement. Her many accolades, years of service, more than 100 publications, and devotion to the study of social entrepreneurship speak for themselves.

Kickul’s ultimate goal is inspire people, to research topics that are practical, meaningful, and impactful.

Kickul has always had a passion for learning and teaching. She was steeped in the educational world from an early age with a father who was a seismic structural engineering professor; she began teaching herself at the age of 23. When she was younger, however, she did not value the work her mother did as both a fashion designer and an entrepreneur. Later, Kickul realized how incredibly difficult it was to be an entrepreneur, and it was her mother’s entrepreneurial bent that would inform much of her own career.

Soon after she began teaching, Kickul decided to pursue a Ph.D. While she was in the doctoral program, she got “the bug” for research and found she loved the research process—from developing to testing hypotheses and then reporting her findings. She felt she was really contributing to her field through research. Even better, she was able to bring these new findings into the classroom and share them with her students. Even now, her students inspire her to remain curious and to always pursue new research topics.

With a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology, Kickul takes a multi-disciplinary approach to her research, drawing on everything from macroeconomics, innovation, strategy, organizational behavior, and technology. Her many papers have focused on bricolage behavior (creatively combining resources in resource-constrained environments), women-owned businesses, ways of teaching entrepreneurship in the classroom, and what factors can help—or hinder—global social entrepreneurship.

Her publications reflect her strong sense for the synergy between practice and research. An example of this focus is her paper, “Gender, Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy, and Entrepreneurial Career Intentions: Implications for Entrepreneurship Education,” that looks at the effects of entrepreneurship education and finds that the effects of such education in MBA programs is stronger for women than for men.

She is the author of the bestselling book Understanding Social Entrepreneurship: The Relentless Pursuit of Mission in an Ever Changing World (Routledge), which has been adopted in over 80 universities. Her research spans several academic areas and has been cited by more than 1,400 researchers from a variety of fields. She has had articles published in entrepreneurship and management journals including: Journal of Management, Journal of Operations Management, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Academy of Management Learning and Education, and Journal of Business Ethics. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Coleman Foundation for Entrepreneurship Excellence.

In 2017, Kickul was named Educator of the Year Award by USASBE (United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship), an organization for which she is now president-elect. She received the 2011 Distinguished Social Entrepreneurship Award that honors someone who has made a significant impact on the social entrepreneurship landscape. Kickul’s teaching renown extends beyond USC Marshall and even the United States; she has taught entrepreneurship internationally in Denmark, Hong Kong, Sweden, and Finland.

Kickul is the founding director of The Annual Conference on Social Entrepreneurship, which is currently the largest academic research conference in the social entrepreneurship field, and serves as Associate Editor of the Journal of Social Entrepreneurship. Serving as a consultant, she has helped more than 100 small business owners develop business and marketing plans and conduct various analyses.

Kickul’s ultimate goal is inspire people, to research topics that are practical, meaningful, and impactful. She gives back to the larger educational world, her students, and small business owners, lending her expertise to get enterprises off the ground and prepare the next generation of social entrepreneur influencers.