Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation program gains expert in specialised field

Samira looking straight at the camera

5 minute read

The Australian National University’s (ANU) Research School of Management (RSM) appointed Samira Nazar as a lecturer in Entrepreneurship in January this year.

Samira’s teaching is informed by her qualitative research of marginalised entrepreneurs in fragile contexts, most recently women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan.

“Women are a particularly marginalised group in Afghanistan, yet women’s entrepreneurship was flourishing in this region prior to the Taliban’s takeover. This made it a particularly insightful context to investigate how they navigated their challenges to succeed in their entrepreneurship,” she says.

Before arriving at ANU, Samira undertook her PhD at the University of Queensland's Business School, where she also taught postgraduate courses and was part of research projects in entrepreneurship, innovation, strategy and sustainability. Prior to that, Samira completed a Master in Business majoring in Social Impact and Sustainability, as well as a graduate diploma in Technology and Innovation Management.

In this interview, Samira discusses her area of research and teaching expertise as well as her plans to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Q. What has brought you to RSM?

RSM’s mission to create knowledge that makes a difference to organisations and society, its focus on supporting and driving research and teaching excellence, and its evidence-based community engagement were all key factors in my decision to join the School. I am honoured and excited to begin my academic career at RSM, to contribute to the School’s excellent research and teaching, and I look forward to collaborating with my new colleagues.

Q. How did your interest in researching and teaching entrepreneurship develop?

My interest in researching and teaching entrepreneurship stems from my days as a Masters student. Meeting aspiring entrepreneurs, engaging with networks focused on entrepreneurship, and learning about the societal, environmental and economic impact of entrepreneurship inspired me toward research and teaching in this field. My experiences left me particularly interested in entrepreneurs who operate in relatively challenging environments, how they successfully navigate the hurdles before them and, ultimately, how they make important contributions toward the wellbeing of their wider communities. I hope to bring those insights into the classroom to educate the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Q. Your research examines marginalised entrepreneurs in fragile contexts. Could you expand on what that means, and what the societal impact of your research in this area is?

In 2015, the United Nations released their Sustainable Development Goals. The Goals are an articulation of the 17 global challenges we face, two of which are poverty and inequalities. These challenges pose the greatest threat to fragile contexts, or areas already plagued by chromic economic, social, environmental, and security issues. Of greatest concern within these adverse environments are people who are marginalised on the basis of their gender, age, race, or sexual orientation. As research demonstrates that entrepreneurial skills can help address grand challenges, I examine how marginalised entrepreneurs navigate their fragile environment to successfully run their ventures, and contribute not only to their individual prosperity, but also to the societal health and wealth at large. These insights can help policymakers, governments, and NGOs develop and implement better policies and programs aimed at supporting marginalised entrepreneurs to alleviate poverty and inequalities, and address other related grand challenges at a larger scale and faster pace.

Q. In your research, you recently worked with women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan. Can you tell us a little about this project, and what the challenges and highlights were?

Women are a particularly marginalised group in Afghanistan, yet women’s entrepreneurship was flourishing in this region prior to the Taliban’s takeover. This made it a particularly insightful context to investigate how marginalised entrepreneurs navigate their challenges to succeed in their entrepreneurship. One of the challenges when conducting research in this context was being as resilient as the entrepreneurs I was studying. For example, one of my research participants couldn’t make it to our scheduled interview as she needed to care for relatives who had been injured in a suicide attack. When advising me of her situation, she forwarded graphic photos of her injured relatives. The images were heartbreaking, and are definitely not ones I will soon forget.

Challenges aside, this research allowed me to observe multiple different and innovative approaches that women entrepreneurs in my study used to navigate the barriers imposed upon them, and find ways to succeed. The way they combined a growth and pro-social lens toward their entrepreneurship was another highlight for me, something we usually separate as growth versus social entrepreneurship in the literature.

Q. You received A$150,000 funding under the ANU Future Scheme 2.0. Congratulations! What will your research program look like over the next few years and what kind of impact will the funding have?

Thank you so much. I am very grateful for receiving this prestigious award and for the impact that it will have on my research activities in the coming years. While I will use the funding to continue my work in marginalised entrepreneurship and adverse contexts, I would like to expand the scope of my research to include immigrant, refugee and First Nations entrepreneurship and, by doing so, make impactful contributions toward a more inclusive entrepreneurship scholarship. Ultimately, I would like my expanded body of research to help policymakers and governments support and foster a more inclusive and diverse future generation of entrepreneurs in contributing to the wellbeing of society, environment and economy at large.

Q. What can students in entrepreneurship courses expect from you?

In addition to learning about the core principles of entrepreneurship, my students will study entrepreneurial ecosystems and how to navigate them. Aligning my courses with megatrends and grand challenges will enable students in fostering a more inclusive and diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem. I also aim to provide my students the right tools that can help them shape the future and develop ideas and solutions to the grand challenges facing Australia and the world.

Click here to find out more about the Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs. Click here for more details.