Launching Dreams: Dr Darren Burke Inspires 46 Students in Entrepreneurship Course

In the hallowed halls of academia, where theories are debated and research is conducted, a unique transformation is taking place. Darren Burke, the first industry professor in the Department of Kinesiology, is not just imparting knowledge but catalyzing dreams. In a groundbreaking entrepreneurship course, 46 students are not only learning the intricacies of starting a business but also witnessing the living example of a professor who is simultaneously launching his third company.

The juxtaposition of academia and entrepreneurship is not a common narrative. Still, Burke, with his unbridled passion and years of experience, is breaking down these traditional barriers. As the entrepreneur in residence at Saint Mary’s University, he brings a wealth of practical wisdom to the Kinesiology department, where students are not just contemplating the human body’s mechanics but also the mechanics of launching and running successful enterprises.

Burke’s journey from academia to business is a tale of reinvention and audacity. Formerly a professor at St. Francis Xavier University, where he specialized in sports nutrition, exercise physiology, and metabolism, Burke found a new calling when he contemplated commercializing his research. His transition from the lecture hall to the boardroom wasn’t an easy decision, but it was a necessary one.

“I loved being a professor. The academic freedom was amazing. I had the time to be creative, explore ideas, and hone important skills,” recalls Burke. However, the allure of translating his life’s work into a line of sports nutrition products for professional and Olympic athletes proved irresistible. The entrepreneurial bug bit, and Burke made the courageous decision to leave academia, fully committing himself to the challenging world of startups.

His first venture burgeoned into an industry leader, raking in revenues exceeding $20 million. Burke’s ability to turn academic expertise into a thriving business showcased the latent potential within the intersection of education and entrepreneurship. After selling his initial company in 2013, Burke spent five years as a full-time dad and husband, proving that success in business doesn’t have to come at the expense of personal life.

Now, in his third entrepreneurial endeavor, Burke is getting ready to launch in 2024 with another novel brand based on innovative product development—a testament to his commitment to constantly improve and push the boundaries. While building his own company, he is simultaneously guiding 46 students in the nuances of entrepreneurship.

The entrepreneurship course, led by Burke, has become a beacon for students eager to explore their business acumen. Enrollment doubled after the first class, surpassing the initial cap of 40 students. This surge in interest reflects a growing enthusiasm among students for innovation and entrepreneurship. Gianni Parise, Acting Associate Vice-President, Research, recognizes this trend and is keen to foster it within the Kinesiology department.

“We’re seeing growing interest in innovation and entrepreneurship among our students,” says Parise. The plans extend beyond the classroom, with the department aiming to open a collaborative makerspace—a space where students can leverage technology and equipment to innovate, learn, and explore. Traditionally found in Engineering departments, such spaces are designed to promote innovation and commercialization of ideas. The Kinesiology department believes in its potential to offer students unique opportunities to cultivate their entrepreneurial spirit.

Burke’s role extends beyond the classroom; he is set to play a pivotal part in launching and managing the collaborative makerspace, further bridging the gap between academic knowledge and practical application. His multi-faceted engagement in both teaching and hands-on entrepreneurial activities illustrates the seamless integration of academia and business.

The impact of Burke’s teachings is palpable among the students. Cara Pekos, a fourth-year kinesiology student, speaks glowingly of the course. “I think there’s immense value in learning from someone who’s successfully created and run a business,” she says. Pekos, like many of her peers, is not necessarily planning an immediate foray into entrepreneurship. Still, the course has ignited a spark, with students generating business ideas around their interests in research and rehabilitation science.

One distinctive aspect of Burke’s course is its discussion-based format, providing students with the opportunity to bounce their ideas off an experienced entrepreneur. It’s not just theoretical knowledge; it’s a dynamic exchange of ideas and experiences, creating an environment conducive to innovation.

Burke’s message to his students is clear: “I want the students to realize that they too can be entrepreneurs and have the confidence and courage to start their own business or join an early stage company. It’s far from easy, but the opportunities are endless, and the rewards are incredible.”

As Darren Burke continues to inspire and guide the next generation of entrepreneurs within the Department of Kinesiology, his story becomes a testament to the infinite possibilities that emerge when academia and entrepreneurship converge. In this unique course, dreams are not just discussed; they are launched, fueled by the passion and expertise of a professor who has walked the entrepreneurial path and is now illuminating the way for others.

To Top

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This