Deb Shepherd is an Entrepreneurial Fellow at the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Judith Marecek is an experience design educator and Manager at the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Together Deb and Judith delivered Summer Lab, an intensive 4-week entrepreneurship programme designed to ignite the entrepreneur within.

Summer Lab is designed to equip students with the essential skills required to generate ideas and translate them into ventures through action-oriented learning. The programme uses engaging tools and frameworks to shape innovative thinking, including rapid prototyping and a range of engaging workshops using methods such as LEGO Serious Play, as well as access to insights from entrepreneurs and industry leaders as guest speakers. The programme is delivered during the University of Auckland’s summer holidays. This timing allows students to give the programme their full attention.

Participants enter the programme as individuals and form teams centred around challenges that resonate with them, drawing inspiration from the framework of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Within teams they explore emerging technologies, develop minimum viable products using a range of business model canvasses.

The programme culminates in a final pitching event where teams present their ventures to a panel of judges, receiving feedback and guidance to refine their ideas further.

Summer Lab is a free, extra-curricular programme designed to make entrepreneurship accessible and engaging. Previously, encouraging students of the University of Auckland to engage with entrepreneurship has been problematic as many students do not see how entrepreneurship is relevant to their identity as a scientist, lawyer, artist etc. Summer Lab has evolved to have a heavy focus on social entrepreneurship. This has helped to increase the diversity of programme participants, as working towards addressing global challenges appeals to a wide variety of students. Alongside the framework of social entrepreneurship, students undertake a variety of workshops designed to develop their practical skills. These workshops aim to empower students not only in advancing their ventures but also in their pursuits beyond the programme.

An important aspect of the programme is access to industry leaders, former Summer Lab participants and entrepreneurs so participants can hear and learn from people at a variety of stages in the entrepreneurial journey. To facilitate this learning experience, a large group of volunteers, consisting of industry practitioners and educators, is mobilised to support the programme. These volunteers play crucial roles in providing mentorship, serving as judges, and delivering workshops, ensuring participants have access to a wealth of expertise and guidance throughout their entrepreneurial endeavours.

Pre and post entrepreneurial mindset survey results from Summer Lab participants show that participants demonstrated significant self-identified growth in entrepreneurial mindset – especially in perceived ability to develop their own business, ability to develop entrepreneurial ideas and ability in relation to their overall skills as an entrepreneur.

The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE)

CIE’s purpose is to bring innovative and entrepreneurial potential to life, helping participants create value, stand out and have impact. CIE provides a wide range of free co-curricular learning opportunities to University of Auckland students and staff across all fields of study, recognising that diversity fuels innovation. Entrepreneurship serves as a framework through which students can develop a diverse set of skills, knowledge, and networks with broad applicability.

CIE holds the belief that while not everyone will pursue a path in entrepreneurship, everyone should possess the ability to think like an entrepreneur. Developing an entrepreneurial mindset and fostering innovative capabilities are seen as invaluable assets as students enter a new world of work and contribute to shaping the future we aspire to inhabit.


Read more about the initiative here.

To hear from the other Impactful Educator Awardees and their initiatives, visit our e-zine special issue.

Edited by Tasha Day (UIIN)