December 14, 2011
|Assistant Professor of International Business Tonia Warnecke, Lucas Hernandez (Class of 2013) and Nicholas Nunn (Class of 2013) visit the Forbidden City in Beijing.
Standing on the streets of Beijing, Lucas Hernandez (Class of 2013), Nicholas Nunn (Class of 2013) and Assistant Professor of International Business Tonia Warnecke relished in the opportunity to observe, in real life, the female entrepreneurs they had researched together. As part of the Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship program, the trio had spent weeks on campus analyzing female up starters in China, from street vendors to multinational tycoons. Then in June 2011, they traveled to China to not only present their paper but to also witness first-hand the subjects of their work.
It all began in the fall of 2010 when Nunn, an economics major and Cornell Scholar in his sophomore year, approached Warnecke to express his interest in working with her on a research collaboration. “Until then, I’d only ever worked with students in the summer between their junior and senior year,” Warnecke recalled, who also asked Hernandez, an international relations major and Cornell Scholar, to join the team. Unbeknownst to Warnecke at the time, Nunn and Hernandez had roomed together during their freshman year.
As a specialist in economic development with an emphasis on gender, Warnecke had a particular interest in Chinese female entrepreneurship. So when Nunn and Hernandez suggested this topic, she agreed wholeheartedly, adding that they specifically focus on the multi-dimensional nature of entrepreneurship. “I was interested in looking at the sort of businesses that become huge international forces but also the sort of businesses that arise out of necessity, when lack of employment opportunity forces individuals to start their own venture, such as with many street vendors.”
As the trio started what would ultimately turn out to be a fairly difficult research project, Warnecke submitted their topic for review at a conference for the International Association for Feminist Economics, just six weeks away. The paper, still unwritten, was accepted and travel to the conference to present the paper was approved and funded by the Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship program.
The result was an empirical paper about entrepreneurship in China and how it differs for men and women; the team discovered that Chinese women are more likely than men to engage in entrepreneurship as a last resort, rather than in response to a perceived opportunity, and explored a vast array of literature to explain this outcome. “We also looked at the things China was doing to support female entrepreneurship and came up with some ideas on how this support could be strengthened.”
In June, the research team traveled to China to present their paper, which was received with high praise. They also managed to fit in several days of sightseeing, taking in some of the best-known sites such as Beijing’s Forbidden City. Warnecke's extra travel was funded by the President's Internationalization Initiative.
“Traveling to China was a surreal experience; it was great to have the photos we saw during our research process come to life. Seeing China first-hand gave the work a much deeper significance,” Hernandez shared. “Additionally, attending and presenting at an international conference was amazing. Not only did I get to see how academic conferences are run, but I was actually able to converse and present to academics whose papers I had previously read.”
All in all, Warnecke called the research collaboration and subsequent trip to China a huge success. “I was really glad we worked together as a trio because it ended up being a really difficult project; a lot of statistics in China are hard to find,” said Warnecke.
Hernandez also felt the collaboration was highly beneficially for him, both academically and personally. “From this experience I feel as though my writing and research skills have developed by leaps and bounds,” he said. “Regardless of which career path I choose, these skills will prove to be essential in my future success. Additionally, I gained a great deal of respect for the judiciousness and intelligence required to embark on academic research.”
The research paper, titled “Female Entrepreneurship in China: Opportunity- or Necessity- Based?,” has since been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business.