June 18, 2024

Gordon Bids Farewell to CEL Founding Director

Carter Crockett in the CEL office. Photo by Nate McReynolds.

By Katie Simpson ’19

Carter Crockett came to Gordon five years ago with a bold goal. “We set out to make Gordon… among schools of our type…the most inspiring for entrepreneurial thinkers,” he said.

The Tartan interviewed Crockett to reflect on his five years at Gordon as the first Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) after the college announced he will step down at the end of this year.

Crockett recounted his first introduction to CEL when he received a call from D. Michael Lindsay while working in Rwanda. “They wanted to make Gordon the most entrepreneurial campus amongst all of the Christian liberal arts schools,” Crockett said.  

Seeing this as an opportunity to return his family to the United States, Crockett applied for the director position, competing with around 50 other applicants.

After Crockett earned  the position in 2013, CEL expanded into a multidisciplinary operation that includes initiatives as a summer immersion program in Rwanda, a leadership program for high school students and a minor in social enterprise.

CEL wasn’t always so widely accepted, though. Crockett explained, “There were some skeptics that thought…Christians shouldn’t engage entrepreneurship quite that intimately.”

He credited some of his success in combating this attitude to the rise of social entrepreneurship.

“Social enterprise has baptized the scary concept as something that can be done for the good of others, or for the good of society, or for the environment and that sort of notion has really taken root in the last five, six years,” Crockett said.  

“But if you just see it as another form of community or another form of creation, then absolutely, Christians should be leading at [entrepreneurship].”

However, the Christian faith is central to CEL’s operation. “We want to tap into the strongest part of what Gordon is which is a Christian Liberal arts school,” Crockett said, citing the theme of this year’s Social Venture Challenge, Ex Aliquo.

Crockett added that a theme like that, though widely understood on a campus where learning creation ex nihilo is a requirement, would not be understood in a secular context program like Harvard’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship.

CEL has also distinguished itself from other entrepreneurship programs by being interdisciplinary. Most other entrepreneurship programs are attached to a business or engineering department.

Crockett credits this to retired professor, Ted Wood, who said, according to Crockett, “if [Gordon has] a center, it shouldn’t be in just one major; it should be across campus.”

“When you start with the biases and assumptions of a particular field, it’s really difficult to get the rest of the campus to play,” Crockett added.

Crockett credits this interdisciplinary effort as a success. He said, “the word entrepreneurship was actually not really used or understood on campus five years ago, and now it seems like we use it a lot.”

Of the mission of CEL, Crockett said, “We feel like we’re often in the business of building the creative confidence of Gordon students.” He adds that CEL’s core mission is “inspiring and equipping students with the entrepreneurial virtues to launch what they want to launch.”

“I am one of those folks that is more wired for the starting of things than the maintaining of things,” he said.  

Crockett hopes to see CEL’s existing programs continue and grow in unexpected ways as he returns to his family home in Southern California after completing his spring classes and leading one last Rwanda seminar.

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