Gateway Elective: I&E 171, Business Anthropology

I took my first I&E elective, Business Anthropology, during the fall of my freshman year. Having never taken a business-focused class in high school, I was eager to engage in entrepreneurship from an academic perspective as soon as possible when I arrived at Duke. Professor Makhulu’s class was fascinating: we learned about how anthropologists employ ethnographic methods in business settings to help firms make decisions and optimize efficiency. As someone who is usually very numbers-oriented, I enjoyed learning methods of analyzing a small number of consumers deeply rather than considering many consumers on a shallow data-driven level.

One of my favorite parts about the class was when we hosted guest speakers, who spoke to us about their experiences in anthropology and entrepreneurship. I especially enjoyed the presentation given by Christina Wasson, an anthropologist from the University of North Texas who described the soft skills needed to excel in business and the importance of learning through experience. By taking Professor Makhulu’s class, I was challenged to think about approaching business problems from an anthropological mindset, a skill that proved useful in practice while engaging with business owners during my DukeEngage trip this past summer. 

 

My Story

Hey there! My name is Alex Adler and I’m a sophomore at Duke from Greenville, North Carolina (about two hours east of Durham). I am pursing a Bachelors of Science in Economics and a Certificate in Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and my interests lie in the intersection of finance, business, and entrepreneurship. By completing coursework in Duke’s I&E department, I hope to learn more about the different ways of developing initial ideas into impactful actions. After my time at Duke, I hope to pursue a career in business or finance, and a graduate degree in business administration. However, it is also one of my long-term professional goals to be able to develop an original product or idea and bring this project to fruition in the form of a personal business. By engaging with the I&E program, taking business and entrepreneurship courses, and enriching my knowledge with impactful experiences, my solid background in entrepreneurship will help me realize my goal of eventually developing and managing my own innovative business.   

Although I have always been interested in the entrepreneurial aspects of design, management, and business, my passion for entrepreneurship evolved in high school when I founded my own nonprofit organization with an online business component. When I was in 9th grade, my mother unexpectedly brought home five baby chickens one afternoon for my siblings and me to care for. After constructing a coop and spending several months feeding the chickens, watching them fertilize the lawn, and collecting eggs, the untapped potential of this underrated pet became obvious to me. Over the next few months, I began thinking about how to share this opportunity for owning the ultimate productive pet. My mission evolved into educating others on the importance of environmental stewardship and conservation, and soon my 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Chickens for Children (www.chickensforchildren.org) was born.

A second entrepreneurial-related experience of mine includes a civic engagement trip this past summer. For two months, I lived with a team of seven Duke students in rural Southern Chile and worked extensively with the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve Foundation. The overall objectives of this trip included strengthening the local workforce skills and developing conservation research activities. Read more about this experience under the “150 Hour Experience” menu. 

In my free time I love to spend time with family and friends, play soccer, practice viola, and travel.

 

 

150 hour experience: Duke Engage Chile 2019

For my 150 hour experience, I participated in a DukeEngage civic engagement and service-learning experience. For two months, I lived with a team of seven students in rural Southern Chile and worked extensively with the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve Foundation. The overall objectives of this trip included strengthening the local workforce skills and developing conservation research activities, and we focused on multiple entrepreneurial efforts that corresponded with these goals. One of our projects, and my personal favorite, was advising and personally working with 15 local entrepreneurs to create bilingual web pages for their businesses. We started by interviewing these business owners in their places of work, which included hostels, restaurants, artisanal workshops, and bakeries. Using the information they provided and photos of their businesses, we then created over 60 bilingual web pages with the hope that an online presence would increase their earnings and publicity. At the end of our program, we presented the webpages (http://destinohuilohuilo.cl) to all of the entrepreneurs and the local chambers of commerce at an official website launch event. They were all extremely appreciative and it was incredible having the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in their businesses through the entrepreneurial tactic of developing an online presence. This experience enhanced my understanding of how entrepreneurship works in a service-oriented setting and increased my interest in pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities like the I&E certificate.