Professor recognized for teaching innovations inside and outside the classroom

headshot of briana stenard
Dr. Briana Stenard

A Mercer University professor is being recognized for her innovative teaching techniques that allow students to apply their knowledge in engaging and fun ways. Dr. Briana Stenard, associate professor of management and entrepreneurship in the School of Business, is this year’s recipient of the Innovations in Teaching Award. 

The award annually recognizes the efforts of a Mercer undergraduate faculty member who successfully provides students with engaging learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom. It is co-sponsored by Vulcan Materials Company and the University. 

“Dr. Stenard is a strong believer in experiential, innovative and interdisciplinary education inside and outside the classroom,” said Dr. Julie Petherbridge, dean of the School of Business. “All of her classes are project-based, and every lecture includes engaging activities and real-life examples. 

“Students really like her hands-on approach and regularly comment on how her passion for the material, as well as how her use of multiple methods for content delivery, really helped them improve their knowledge of the subject.” 

Dr. Stenard uses case studies, simulations, discussions, interviews, service learning, writing assignments and projects to engage her students. She also has developed original experiential exercises that allow students to apply their newfound knowledge. 

“Not everybody learns by just listening to a lecture,” she said. “As students are changing, as the world is changing, I think it’s important that we evolve the way we teach … and we need to give them opportunities to learn in different ways.” 

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced classes online, Dr. Stenard converted the exercises to an online format, so students could still benefit from the experience. 

Two of her innovative exercises were recognized at the 2021 U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference, where the exercise Two Pros and a Con won first place in the Entrepreneurship Experiential Exercises (3E) Competition. The exercise gets students thinking about what they’re looking for when joining a company.

“A lot of times when we teach entrepreneurship, we teach about starting your own company. But actually, what we found is the majority of people are joiners, so a lot of people are interested in being an early joiner at a company, or they want to work for a startup, but they don’t necessarily want to start the startup,” Dr. Stenard said. “So, the key thing about that is what it would be like to join a startup and what you would be looking for in joining a startup because it is a different environment than a large company.” 

The exercise Got Problems?, which won the People’s Choice Award in the 3E Competition, gives students empathy for their customers, she said. Her SCAMPER Ideation Toolkit exercise won third place in the 2022 3E contest.

Outside the classroom, Dr. Stenard said it’s important to give students the opportunity to pitch their ideas. She started several pitch competitions that not only give students practice pitching but also provide feedback, so their ideas can grow and evolve. Pitch contest winners receive prize money for their ideas. 

“Students need to share their ideas. They need to get feedback. They need to get practice pitching. The more times you get up and pitch, the more feedback you collect from different audiences,” she said. “We really want students to do this in a safe space before they get out and do this in the real world.” 

This past year, Dr. Stenard organized seven entrepreneurship education events. This includes the new First Pitch Friday to give underrepresented student business founders live pitching experience, the Mercer Elevator Pitch Competition to encourage students throughout campus to pitch their ideas, the Southern Conference multi-school pitch competition hosted at Mercer, two Innov8GA faculty conferences on improving entrepreneurship education throughout the state, the Innov8GA multi-school student pitch competition, and the Southern Conference Entrepreneurship Education Faculty Summit to improve entrepreneurship education throughout the conference.

Dr. Stenard’s research focuses on the role of human capital in shaping entrepreneurial careers, particularly of scientists and engineers.

“My research stream has always been on human capital in terms of people’s education and the work experiences and how that impacts their entrepreneurial careers. So how your background, skill development and skills you’ve acquired along the way affect your entrepreneurial career as far as entry, performance and exit,” she said.

“That ties in to my teaching because I’m teaching skills to students. Now a lot of my recent research has been on the pedagogy in the classroom. How we actually look at what we are teaching and how that relates to the skills that we know students will need when they graduate, especially if they want to have an entrepreneurial career.”

Dr. Stenard has had her work published in top scholarly journals and is working on a forthcoming book chapter based on her original learning technologies.

This year’s Innovations in Teaching Award will be formally presented at the faculty awards ceremony on April 26. 


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