A lot can change in 15 years. 

Take yourself back to the year 2007. During this year, millions lined up outside Apple stores for the very first iPhone. That same year, Myspace reigned as one of the largest social networking sites in the world. Oh, and of course, the United States was heading into the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Feels like ages ago, right? 

In some ways, it feels like we’re living in a completely different world than we were 15 years ago. In fact, that is where the story of the Center for Entrepreneurship begins.

In 2007, Thomas Zurbuchen, former U-M professor and, most recently, leader of NASA’s science directorate, breathed life into the Center for Entrepreneurship. Initially, the CFE was created to instill the entrepreneurial mindset in U-M students and encourage innovation throughout the wider Ann Arbor community.

Throughout the past 15 years, things at the CFE have certainly changed. Just like a startup, we continue to evolve and grow to meet the increasing demand for entrepreneurial curriculum and experiences. However, the heart of the CFE has remained the same: creating opportunities for everyone in the U-M community to learn, practice, and apply an entrepreneurial mindset.

Today, diverse courses, programs, and study abroad opportunities allow students and faculty to achieve the same goal set by Zurbuchen in 2007 — to unlock their entrepreneurial potential. To date, more than 30,000 students and researchers have been helped by the Center for Entrepreneurship. For the past 8 consecutive years, the CFE has contributed to U-M’s Top 10 ranking of entrepreneurship programs in the world, according to Entrepreneur Magazine and Princeton Review. 

Students smile while collaborating in an ENTR course.

Throughout the years, the CFE’s programming has expanded to include a variety of opportunities for any and all members of the University of Michigan Community. Taught exclusively by experienced entrepreneurs, ENTR courses are available to students at all schools and colleges. 

In addition to courses, the CFE has also introduced a variety of programming that allows students to take their entrepreneurial endeavors a step further. 

Perot Jain TechLab at Mcity allows students to learn while solving problems faced by  innovative startups in the autonomous and connected vehicle industry. Innovation for Impact: Climate Change works similarly, partnering students with climate tech companies to work on projects that aim to create a healthier planet. Innovation for Impact: Defense and Security gives students the ability to work on crucial solutions for the Department of Defense. The Entrepreneurs Leadership Program offers 1:1 mentor matching for entrepreneurially-minded students. As the needs of students and our communities evolve, so do the offerings at the CFE.

Through these offerings, the CFE aims to help people understand, experience, practice, and refine the skills needed to successfully translate their knowledge, ideas, leadership, creativity, and enthusiasm into lasting value in the world. 

These courses and program offerings have proven to be incredibly valuable for students hoping to make a lasting impact through entrepreneurial endeavors.

Christian Leonard, current Entrepreneurship student and ELP cohort member, says, “My time within the CFE has been one the best parts of my Master’s program, by far. As an ELP fellow, I went from only having ambitions of pursuing entrepreneurship to now being in the early stages of starting a company. The connections, the opportunities, the insights – the ELP experience is unmatched at getting students up to speed and ahead of the curve when it comes to founding, leading, and understanding a business.”

Other students say that ENTR courses simply helped them rediscover their joy of learning. 

“I took my first entrepreneurship class during my freshman year,” said Bryn Jackson. “I had friends who were taking entrepreneurship classes, so I decided to take one as well. I really loved it. I was excited to go to class.”

According to Kurt Skiftsad, Dixon and Carol Doll Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, the CFE plans to continue its legacy of helping each and every Wolverine reach their full entrepreneurial potential.

“Entrepreneurship is about action and impact – turning ideas and resources into new value in the world,” said Skifstad. “The CFE’s 15 year mission has been to accelerate the trajectory of every student, professor, and researcher towards positive change, and we’re very much looking forward to continuing that mission and supporting Michigan Entrepreneurs for years to come.”

Here’s to many more years of innovation and impact!

Curious about the resources offered at the Center for Entrepreneurship? Click here to learn how you can get involved.

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