June 23, 2022 at 4:15pm
Dane Lisser

How Millikin Professor Dr. Yuhan “Jane” Hua is building successful experiences in the classroom

Above the Decatur Area Arts Council in downtown Decatur, Ill., lies an open-floor workspace where Millikin University students spend countless hours during the spring semester learning how to start a business. Inside the space, the Thinkwell Makerspace, students are building their visions — products of their own invention for a course called Innovation Lab. 


A typical day in the Innovation Lab begins with the students presenting updates to their faculty advisor, Dr. Yuhan “Jane” Hua, on the progress of their product, business plan developments and market research. The students are then back to work using computer software and 3D printing technology to build prototypes of their products that maybe one day could be useful to consumers and help solve problems.


The Innovation Lab course is a direct representation of the Millikin academic experience, but it also represents the teaching styles of Dr. Hua and her enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. 


A native of China, Dr. Hua joined the Millikin faculty in 2018, and serves as an assistant professor of business and entrepreneurship in the Tabor School of Business. She her earned her Ph.D. from the University of Louisville, and received her master’s and MBA from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.


Dr. Yuhan “Jane” Hua



What initially attracted Dr. Hua to Millikin University was the community support the University’s Center for Entrepreneurship shows for students as they work to build their own ventures. “The classroom experiences are important, but what’s unique is the small community where the students can learn from each other,” she says.


Students in Dr. Hua’s courses are witnesses to the excitement and passion she brings to the classroom, especially when unique ideas and projects start to grow.


“Teaching is very rewarding for me and makes my life more meaningful,” she says. “I think good teaching can inspire and motivate students to learn by themselves.”


The concept of entrepreneurship has evolved so much over time that new entrepreneurs and influential startups are being created every day. Entrepreneurship has traditionally been defined as the process of designing, launching and running a new business, which typically begins as a small business, offering a product or service. More and more, Dr. Hua is seeing younger generations of students taking their visions and developing them into marketable business ideas.


Dr. Hua is also constantly keeping up with the latest trends of the entrepreneurship world, but she believes it’s important for her students to get out of their comfort zone if they want to launch a business.


“If you want to get a product off the ground, you need to take action, speak to the right audience and accept the fact that there will be failures and pivots,” Dr. Hua said. “It’s important to try to find out what your consumers want. So many students have the ideas with all the assumptions … but you have to validate those assumptions.”


Since she began teaching at Millikin, Dr. Hua has made it a priority to integrate new cases, inventions, technologies, strategies and market tactics into her courses. She spends time and energy exploring new things happening around the world and mixes them into her teachings.


One of those mixtures is the partnership she established with Decatur's Thinkwell Makerspace Industries for the Innovation Lab course. Dr. Hua’s work gives students a chance to understand the crucial component of Millikin's hands-on approach to education, Performance Learning, and learn the fundamental process of building a product from the ground up. 


“The interaction I have with my students is the best part of my job,” she says. “I don’t have any limitations when it comes to my courses. For example, in the Innovation Lab, I’m able to show students how a supplier works in a team environment. It’s great to get rewarding feedback from your students.”