Innovation at the Heart of Diverse Ecosystem
Entrepreneurship programs across the University of Michigan have, at their core, a focus on transformative experiences at both the curricular and co-curricular level.
Students from all disciplines are exposed to entrepreneurial ideals and practice on transdisciplinary teams to explore dynamic, immersive experiences with the intent to develop and refine skills for both leading and being led in creative, technical, and business collaborations.
The ecosystem’s curricular and co-curricular offerings contributed to the University of Michigan’s Top 5 Ranking by the Princeton Review for undergraduate entrepreneurial studies and Top 10 graduate entrepreneurial studies the last five years running. The Princeton Review measures the percentage of faculty, students, and alumni actively and successfully involved in entrepreneurial endeavors, the number and reach of mentorship programs, scholarships and grants for entrepreneurial studies, and the level of support for school-sponsored business plan competitions.
“The strength of the U-M entrepreneurial ecosystem is the diversity of offerings and perspectives on innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Jonathan Fay, Dixon and Carol Doll Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship. “From music to engineering to business to medicine to literature and the arts, each group of students has something that speaks to and supports the development of the entrepreneurial mindset for their career.
“At the same time, programs are open to all students across campus which enables them to collaborate and work in transdisciplinary teams on truly impactful projects. This approach has created a vibrant and rich entrepreneurial culture at U-M and prepares our students to change the world.”
Partners in the U-M ecosystem include the Entrepreneurship Minor, the Ross School of Business’s Zell Lurie Institute, the School of Literature, Science and Arts’ optiMize, the College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship, the School of Information, the School of Education’s CEDER, the School of Music, Theatre and Dance’s EXCEL Lab, and the Center of Socially Engaged Design’s Innovation in Action.
“What sets the University of Michigan apart is our commitment to pushing the boundaries of education and delivering the action-based learning experiences that build an entrepreneurial mindset — regardless of the career path our students seek,” said Stewart Thornhill, Executive Director of the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. “Every program we offer is meant to amplify success for entrepreneurs, from business plan competitions to working inside of a new venture to investing real dollars in our startups.”
Throughout this ecosystem, 125 classes have an entrepreneurial focus and are taught by 125 campus-wide faculty.
“In the optiMize programs at Michigan, our motto is to ask ourselves, ‘Why not me?’ and take action toward a more just and sustainable world,” said Jeff Sorensen, Director for Social Innovation, U-M College of LSA. “Across the board, U-M provides an incredibly supportive community to pursue projects and ideas together — whether you have an existing project, an idea, or even just a problem you’re passionate about addressing.”
“Developing the skills to imagine, test, and realize innovative offerings that will catalyze systemic change has never been more important for performing artists,” said Jonathan Kuuskoski, Department Chair of Entrepreneurship & Leadership and Director, EXCEL Lab (School of Music, Theatre & Dance). “Artists are hungry to disrupt the status quo, and entrepreneurial training has become increasingly essential to unlocking their confidence and capabilities to do so.”
The University’s most differentiating aspect is its breadth and accessibility of programs. Some courses are designed for students who are curious about entrepreneurship, other courses and programming are more intensive in order to provide the most innovation-driven students with mentorship and skills training needed to transform their ideas into successes.
“In Innovation in Action, we are working with student teams at the very beginning of understanding a big social issue. Throughout our five-month program, students approach these issues in a variety of ways through the socially engaged design process: understanding the ecosystem, talking to stakeholders, and creating prototypes,” said Ann Verhey-Henke, Strategic Director, Center for Socially Engaged Design. “We are grateful for the passion and energy that undergraduate entrepreneurs bring to our community and are consistently excited to be a stop on their journey through the amazing U-M entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
The ecosystem’s approach provides a rich portfolio of programs, leveraging an unparalleled alumni network and global resources unique to the University of Michigan. These programs are coupled with project-based, experiential learning accessible to students in all 19 schools and colleges.
“The Entrepreneurship Minor thrives because of the strong partnerships across campus and the array of co-curricular and professional opportunities that our students find,” said Timothy Webb, Entrepreneurship Minor Director. “We are a thriving community and deeply benefit from all that happens across the entrepreneurship ecosystem.”
U-M’s entrepreneurship offerings include interdisciplinary courses, programs, student organizations, and events that incorporate partnerships with startups and innovative ventures. This approach pushes students to apply their learning outcomes to current real-world problems.
During the past 10 years the larger U-M ecosystem has provided $157,153,385 in funding to 612 student ventures. Of these ventures 21 percent are still in business.
“At the School of Information, we are able to offer support to our student entrepreneurs through advising, mentoring, and financial support,” said Kelly Kowatch, Director of Engaged Learning, School of Information. “This past year we were able to provide grants to three undergraduate students teams to support their endeavors.
“Without the greater entrepreneurial ecosystem at U-M, these students could not be nearly as successful as they are.”
Students have access to internship and mentorship opportunities that are specifically designed to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and create pathways to pursue high-growth potential businesses.
“When we began offering entrepreneurship and innovation programming through our Learning Levers Prize Competition, we came to fully understand the depth of expertise and resources at the University,” said Nate Phipps, Managing Director, SOE Center for Education Design, Evaluation, and Research. “There is a resource, unit, program, or ‘place to go’ for every need we could come up with. It allows students to go further faster in their ideas and development.”
Overall, U-M gives students the opportunity to apply entrepreneurship in order to carve out creative, stimulating futures that offer economic security and the opportunity to contribute positively to society.