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Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership Programme

The Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership programme is a free year-long programme for University of Auckland doctoral candidates from all disciplines. It is designed to develop your entrepreneurial mindset and skills.

Entrepreneurial careers occur within and beyond the world of startups and entrepreneurial skills are relevant in numerous contexts, including academia, social enterprises, community and government organisations, and corporate settings. This programme will equip you with the tools and frameworks to develop ideas, opportunities and solutions and realise impact and value from them in a myriad of contexts.

The programme has relevance to doctoral candidates from all disciplines.

Any questions, please get in touch with the Programme Coordinator: matthew.broughton@auckland.ac.nz

Applications close: 30 September 2023

Learning outcomes

By the end of this programme, we aim to support participants to:

  • Understand different entrepreneurial career pathways and contexts and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking with their research pursuits
  • Develop awareness and understanding of what an entrepreneurial career might look like for them including how they might apply entrepreneurial thinking in their future career decisions and possible steps to get there
  • Examine their entrepreneurial mindset and how this might be further enhanced
  • Understand relevant innovation and entrepreneurial frameworks
  • Build their network within the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem
  • Be able to better identify and act upon opportunities for creating value from research
  • Engage better in research collaboration with industry and other stakeholders, both within academia and externally

Who should apply

If you are a current doctoral candidate at the University of Auckland, who has completed their provisional year, curious about expanding your entrepreneurial leadership skills, creating tangible solutions and impact both within and outside of academia, this Entrepreneurial Leadership programme is for you.

No past experience or study of entrepreneurship, start-ups or venture creation is required.

Programme structure

The Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership programme is designed for in-person attendance, and will involve:

  • Kick-off event
  • Residential retreat (2.5 days)
  • Monthly workshops throughout the year (1-4 pm in the Unleash Space, 20 Symonds Street)
  • Self-directed learning and reflections, and active participation


  • A network of innovative and entrepreneurial peers from all faculties
  • Exposure to a network of innovative and entrepreneurial leaders in numerous contexts
  • Knowledge of the organisations in the entrepreneurial ecosystem including professional service firms, impact, social and commercial investors, incubators and accelerators, government organisations, social and commercial startups, community and social organisations and corporates

Participation in the Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership programme is designed to support students to freely share and explore ideas. To enable this, all participants will sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Timing and commitment

Participation in the Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership programme involves a year-long commitment with mandatory participation in workshops and additional work and reflection required in participants’ own time.

2024 Sessions:

All sessions are hosted in the Unleash Space except for the Residential Overnight Workshop

  • February 28 – Welcome Session, 4 -5pm
  • March 20 – 22 – Residential Overnight Workshop
  • April 30  – Workshop, 1-4pm
  • May 28  – Workshop, 1-4pm
  • June 18  – Workshop, 1-4pm
  • July 30  – Workshop, 1-4pm
  • August 27  – Workshop, 1-4:pm
  • September 24  – Workshop, 1– 4:pm
  • October 29  – Workshop,1– 4:pm

Please note that dates will be subject to change.

Facilitation team

Dr Deb Shepherd – Programme design and Lead Facilitator

Deb combines a variety of roles all of which have entrepreneurial SMEs and social enterprises at the centre.  She is a part-time Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the University of Auckland’s Business School where her research and teaching focus on social entrepreneurship and innovation, the entrepreneurial mindset, entrepreneurial SMEs, and family businesses. She has been involved as a faculty member in the student-led entrepreneurship programme Velocity (previously Spark) since 2004.

Deb is a co-author of the book “Changing gears: How to take your kiwi business from the kitchen table to the board table” and “Gearing Up: Leading your Kiwi business into the future” (2020).

Deb is a founding faculty member of The ICEHOUSE Growth programmes and has been involved in the development, design and delivery of the Owner Manager business growth programmes for SMEs from all sectors and industries since 2001.

Deb is a part owner and on the board of her family business Biocell Corporation and sits on a number of Boards of Directors and Advisory Boards including Resero Group, Onguard, and Forrest Wines.

Deb is an investor and board member of Soul Capital (New Zealand’s first impact investment fund) and an investor in ICE Angels. In 2018 Deb was asked to be deputy chair of the government-appointed Small Business Council (SBC) which morphed into an advisory role to the Minister of Small Business as part of the Small Business Advisory group. She is an industry representative on the government-appointed Australia and New Zealand Electronic Invoicing Board (ANZEIB).


Judith Marecek – Programme Manager

Judith is an international award-winning educator who has worked at the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) for the past seven years. Judith has led the evolution of the Velocity entrepreneurship development programme and Summer Lab, both of which have won international awards. She has in-depth knowledge of entrepreneurial education and is passionate about supporting students on their entrepreneurial journeys.


How to apply

Applicants are subject to a competitive selection process. To be eligible to apply:

  • You must be actively enrolled in a doctoral programme at the University of Auckland.
  • Your candidature must be confirmed by the commencement of the Entrepreneurial Leadership programme. If you are not confirmed into your programme at the time of application, any offer of a place in the programme will be conditional on you having gained confirmation of candidature prior to the commencement of the programme.
  • You must be within 24 months of full-time equivalent enrolment from the commencement of your doctoral candidature by the commencement of the Entrepreneurial Leadership programme.
  • Full-time and part-time candidates are welcome to apply.
  • Candidates must be based on-shore, and able to commit to full attendance of the programme in person.

Please note:

  • Your supervisor will need to endorse your application.
  • Supporting documentation will be required prior to the programme starting, e.g. a letter or email of support from your supervisor.
  • Due to limited availability, participants can only apply for either the Academic Career Advancement Programme (ACAP) or the Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership Programme


Completing the application form will take some time. Complete it as thoroughly as possible, as it will inform the next step of the process—a conversation with CIE—before being invited into the programme.

Applications close: 30 September 2023



“The DELP programme was one of the best things I could have done for myself during University. It was very refreshing to meet other PhD students from different disciplines and learn about their research and journey. The team was very friendly and sharing experiences with one another made the PhD journey less lonely.

I have learned so much about myself during my time at DELP, most importantly my ‘why’ or ikigai (i.e. – a Japanese concept referring to something that gives a person a sense of purpose, a reason for living) – which is teaching. This knowledge has given me so much motivation to persevere through my research but also plan my next steps after my PhD.

The highlight of my time at DELP was definitely the retreat, where we focused on different topics such as building resilience and learned so much from the guest speakers – which was very inspirational. Their journey helped me gain a different perspective regarding career pathways and that life is all about adopting a positive, resilient mindset, and it’s important to learn from our failures.

Last but not least, Judith and Deb were incredible during this journey. Every workshop was a pleasure to attend and their support helped guide us through the DELP programme – so thankful to have learned from them.”

Nevena Sekulic
PhD Candidate – Business


“As a PhD candidate and founding member of a start-up, my most significant challenge throughout my academic and entrepreneurial journey has been maintaining a clear sense of purpose amidst the lengthy and challenging path. Prior to discovering DELP, it felt like I was standing at the trailhead of an unfamiliar mountain without a guidebook, forging ahead with determination but no clear direction. While I treasured the learning experiences and beautiful moments along the way, there were instances when I questioned my perseverance and found myself lost in uncertainty.

DELP’s monthly sessions provided a much-needed opportunity to pause, step away from our work, and reflect on ourselves—a crucial but often overlooked aspect of our busy schedules. These sessions enabled me to connect my research with real-world applications, helping me regain focus on the true purpose behind my pursuits. The program not only allowed me to recognise my strengths and weaknesses but also equipped me with valuable tools to enhance my work efficiency and unleash my creativity.

Listening to the inspiring stories of speakers in DELP, I found solace in shared experiences and identified patterns of resilience that motivated me to overcome adversities. With DELP’s guidance, I now better recognize the powerful potential that lies within the intersection of our research skills and entrepreneurial spirit inherent in PhD candidates.”

Jessica Chiang
PhD Candidate – Biomedical Science


“I joined DELP to get exposure to what entrepreneurship looks like. But it has provided me much more than that. I think the term ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ is key here. This programme has opened my mind to a wide variety of opportunities out there. Through interactions with the guest speakers, I got to see how it’s okay to take calculated risks and how some of those decisions can take you places you never even imagined. This programme forces you to get out of your comfort zone, and sometimes that’s all you need – a bit of a push and you learn to fly yourself. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is unsure about what they want to do or someone who just wants to explore and expand their worldview:

Salik Khan
PhD Candidate – Engineering


“The course is beautifully run and unlike any other I have participated in at the university.  It encourages participants to think outside the box and to challenge the nature of our assumptions on how to approach a problem. Combined with our interdisciplinary cohort and inspiring guest speakers, it’s something I greatly look forward to every month”.


“This programme gives a healthy dose of fresh perspective. It’s terribly easy to fall into familiar patterns as a researcher – we have a problem, think of a solution, and then pursue it with single-minded determination. But the real world doesn’t work like that. We need to be able to pursue our goals with empathy for the people affected by the problem, with consideration for lived experiences outside of our own, and with the humility to change our solutions when shown a better way.”

Judith Glasson
PhD Candidate – Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Department of Ophthalmology


“I applied to the Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership Programme because I wanted to build on my research skills by adding entrepreneurial skills to what I already knew. The highlights have been learning about some of the other cool PhD student projects and hearing from a diverse range of speakers about their post-doctoral work lives and all the cool companies they’re a part of.


I couldn’t recommend it enough. The programme has taught me about all the different ways that a PhD can be applied. I think it has opened my horizons a lot and made me feel excited about the breadth of opportunities in the future!”

Luke Boyle
PhD Candidate – Statistics


“As a third year PhD dance studies student, the idea of entrepreneurial leadership seemed relevant and exciting as I entered the last phase of my studies and began to think about my next step in my career. To be able to meet other PhD candidates from all other disciplines also urged me to try this programme. There are not a lot of platforms I know that provide opportunities for different degrees and disciplines to collaborate and to learn together. How awesome!


“There are so many personal highlights from this programme. Having industry leaders coming in to shed light on their career journeys; dissecting and unpacking our personalities and shortcomings in relation to entrepreneurship; learning and making tangible crafts in Unleash Space; collaborating and coming up with innovative ideas with different people; finding out exciting new ideas that I could not have thought of by myself; and lastly, being encouraged to enter the Velocity Innovation Challenge, and then winning a social prize with my new found partner – Jane Liu was most definitely a highlight! Overall, I just really enjoy how diverse, inclusive, safe and playful the environment of CIE’s Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership programme is.


“I came in without any idea of what the programme was about. Now I feel like I am walking away feeling more confident knowing what I can improve as a creative thinker and do-er. Through others’ experiences, I gained an understanding of what it takes to pursue an idea, and how I can most possibly turn it into reality. I realised many aspects of myself through meeting and co-creating with other participants. I realised my shortcomings and limitations, and what I can do to reset and grow my internal ‘entrepreneurial mindset’. The programme does not necessarily guarantee that I will become an entrepreneur, yet the skills learned through this programme transfer to many areas of my study, work, career and collaborative experiences.”

Yin-Chi Lee
PhD Candidate – Dance Studies