Thirty-five years ago this month, Bruce Bachenheimer (BBA ’83) graduated from Pace with a degree in international management. Today, Bachenheimer is a vocal and vital member of the Pace Community, helping shape the minds of future business leaders in management and entrepreneurship. Bachenheimer recently took some time to chat with Opportunitas about what he’s working on, what he likes about Pace, and the current dynamism of New York City.
You’re both a professor at Lubin and in charge of the Entrepreneurship Lab. Tell us more about those roles.
What’s nice about teaching and running the Entrepreneurship Lab (eLab) is that I’m able to use the eLab and its many resources for my classes. It directly supports curricular instruction—things that happen in the classroom—but also provides co-curricular and extra-curricular support. For example, the eLab runs a pitch contest and business plan competition, in class we are pitching new business concepts and developing business plans.
Do you see that type of blending happening more in the future?
The whole nature of education is changing. This idea of what’s called the “sage on the stage”—one person lecturing to a room of students lined up in rows—that worked during the industrial revolution. But now, people aren’t learning well that way and students want a lot more. Society has changed. Everyone has a short attention span, whether it's texting, Twitter, or one paragraph Yelp reviews. If students aren’t learning the way I teach, I have to change the way I teach.
Is there anything you’re working on that you’re particularly excited about?
I do research, read, and speak regularly about New York City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. One thing I find particularly interesting is just how and why New York City transformed itself into an entrepreneurial city. We were big finance, traditional media, Madison Avenue ad agencies, iconic department stores. We had all of these major industries and Fortune 500 companies, but after the 2008 financial crisis we had to become a lot more entrepreneurial. How New York City did that is incredibly interesting. After the financial crisis, there’s so many things that have been done in a very strategic way. Everything from cutting some red tape to opening up Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island. And now, New York City has surpassed Boston/Cambridge as the number two metro area for VC investment after Silicon Valley.
Do you think that entrepreneurial spirit is built into the DNA of the city?
There’s certainly some of that DNA—the immigrant story, Ellis Island, if I can make it here I can make it anywhere. Additionally, there are numerous entrepreneurial ecosystem models, delineating critical components of success. What is interesting about New York is a concept called the perception of desirability. An entrepreneur can locate almost anywhere, but right now New York City is a very desirable place to be. When I was growing up back in the 70s, nobody wanted to be here. That perception has changed so much, people from around the world want to live and work here, and sometimes you’re really not sure why. That perception of what’s cool and what’s desirable changes, and right now New York City has it.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Pace?
It was always a dream to teach. Without having a PhD and publishing regularly, the thought of being able to do so on a full-time basis at a major metropolitan University was something I didn’t think was possible. Pace made it possible and it’s been incredibly satisfying. I could be entering the classroom exhausted after a long day, wondering how I’m going to make it through a 3-hour night class, and within minutes, the energy from the students...I love it.
In regards to the eLab, the autonomy. I’m happy to work toward institutional goals, the mission and objectives of the University or my School set, but the ability to do that independently and autonomously is very empowering and motivational. Given the mission and objectives, I’ve been afforded a huge degree of freedom to figure out how to best achieve them, and the resources to do it.
You can have a dinner party for any four people, living or dead. Who would you invite?
My mother, my mother-in-law, and my daughter. My mother and mother-in-law both passed away before I was married and never knew our daughter. If it was possible for my mother and mother-in-law to meet our daughter, that would be an amazing dinner for four.