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An Entrepreneurial Approach to Academia

DEPARTMENT(S): 
April 8, 2022
Scorpio Rogers discusses earning his Executive PhD and looking at the impact of entrepreneurship education in the Black community.

Like many people, Scorpio Rogers has had at least two careers. “For me, it may be more like two and a half,” he jokes. After a successful career in business leadership, systems development, and consulting, he is now Interim Vice President of Mercy College’s Manhattan campus. He is also starting a new chapter in his professional life by pursuing an Executive PhD from The Business School at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).

“I’ve actually been looking to get my PhD for about 20 years. Like many parents and professionals, I didn’t see a time when I could break away and pursue a new degree. Now that two of my three children are in college, this seemed like an opportune time to achieve this personal goal,” he says. “I believe that gaining an education is one of the most significant and empowering things anyone can do.”

Rogers earned his BA in Computer Science from Dartmouth College. After working for a few years, he attended Columbia University where he graduated with an MBA with a focus on entrepreneurship. After working as a business systems developer for BNP (now BNP Paribas), a global commercial bank, he consulted for Columbia University and Andersen Consulting. He then continued his career in the financial industry, working as a team leader for the MIS consulting team at American Express. After years of industry experience, he was ready for a new challenge that would lead to an exciting second act.

“I believe that gaining an education is one of the most significant and empowering things anyone can do.”

In 2004, Rogers joined Westchester Community College as an adjunct business professor. Over the next 12 years, he became a full-time tenured professor and, eventually, chair of the business department. He realized that academia was an industry in which he wanted to stay and continue growing. After leaving Westchester, he was named associate dean of The School of Business at Mercy College. During his time there, one of his passions has been teaching others how to start their own successful businesses. In addition to serving as an assistant professor of entrepreneurship, he also founded the Mercy Business Incubation Center, which aids in the growth of local burgeoning businesses.

Today, as he pursues his PhD at WPI, he is exploring the impact of entrepreneurship education. “I have taught entrepreneurship for over 17 years to predominantly first-generation college students who are mostly Black and Hispanic. What I’m looking to find out is: are Black students who study entrepreneurship and who start businesses providing benefits to Black communities? I’m looking at Black entrepreneurship-educated individuals and contrasting them to what I call Black ‘natural’ entrepreneurs, ones that have started a business without any formal entrepreneurship education. I’ll be examining several metrics while looking at the entrepreneurship orientation construct. Hopefully, the results will provide an indication if entrepreneurship education is helping Black entrepreneurs provide financial and non-financial (social) benefits to Black communities.”

The professors Rogers has worked with at WPI have had a significant impact on him and his research. “Professor Rosanna Garcia has unparalleled knowledge of entrepreneurship. She has been inspiring, thought-provoking, and a pleasure to work with,” he says. “I’ve also been working with Professor Frank Hoy. It’s impressive how, with a few words from you, he sees the whole picture and can ask questions to ensure you haven’t overlooked any pitfalls.”

He has also recognized the benefits of working with and connecting with his cohort. “[Everyone in my cohort] is friendly and always willing to share their expertise with others. Learning about the backgrounds and experiences of others in our group will ultimately make all our work stronger.”

“This degree will enable me to do more advanced research … and become a recognized expert on entrepreneurship.”

He credits his time in academia with helping push him to finally pursue his PhD. “I always strive to be the best at what I do—and I can’t be the absolute best without attaining the highest credential in my profession. That is what this degree will allow me to do, become a true academic,” he says. He also wants to use his degree to bring more visibility to his work. “[This degree] will enable me to do more advanced research, hopefully be published in a well-regarded academic journal, and become a recognized expert on entrepreneurship, specifically entrepreneurship education and Black entrepreneurs.”

For Rogers, earning a PhD unlocks many new opportunities. “With a doctorate, you can pursue almost any job in your industry," he says. "The degree will also show you how to be a sequence-oriented thinker with a critical eye that seeks evidence.” 

Along with the professional benefits, the Executive PhD has personal ones. “Learning is one of the most extraordinary things that someone can do for themselves,” he says, “and exercising your mind will provide benefits throughout life.”