Rob Lalka

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Albert R. Lepage Professor in Business. Teacher, mentor, coach. Bridge builder and data advocate.

in New Orleans, professor, US
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I first met Rob during my first phase of Social Ventures. Back in 2015, Rob was still with Propeller in New Orleans and has since moved on to Tulane University where he heads up the Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Tulane’s Freeman School of Business.

“My role is to teach entrepreneurship to the next generation. I want students who come to study business at Tulane to have a world class experience; it’s my main priority. To me, that means reaching out to the business community to talk about emerging trends in innovation to keep our region competitive while also learning what it takes to make local job opportunities possible for our students. In that sense, the city and school are closely intertwined. My job is not just on campus, my work needs to serve the local community and be immersed in the community.”

My job is not just on campus. My goal is to serve our local community and that’s only possible if I leave campus and immerse myself.

What’s involved in effectively teaching students entrepreneurship?

“As a professor you have to be able to understand students, meet them where they are, and help them understand and trust the process of developing a startup mentality. In my role, I try to act as a mentor and coach just as much as an instructor. I engage with students, try to understand what they’re thinking about and bring in the resources they need to move forward.”

Can you tell us more about the entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Orleans?

“I sometimes get the sense that actors in the local ecosystem and at its periphery have great expectations for what entrepreneurship can do for our city. And that can feel like putting the horse before the cart. I personally would rather do the work first and talk later. That is why we at Tulane are data-driven. We had over two hundred respondents to our startup survey that we led, along with two dozen partners, in order to better understand long-term trends and the impact of our entrepreneurship in our region. And this is only the beginning! We want longitudinal data and long-term relationships.  I really want to build something, I want to see the lasting effects of what happens when you invest in a tight-knit community, a vibrant entrepreneurial network.”

How do you make space for yourself?

“I am becoming more intentional about scheduling time to read, write, think and handle administrative tasks. I try to be home around 5.30 p.m. for quality time with my family and put away my phone until about 8.30 p.m. I avoid working on the weekend whenever I can and stay plugged into my community by serving on boards like my church’s early learning center, where my 2.5 year old goes.” 

Rob Lalka Tulane University

Rob Lalka

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Albert R. Lepage Professor in Business. Teacher, mentor, coach. Bridge builder and data advocate.