Entrepreneurship at the University has strong roots in the College of Engineering and at the Ross School of Business. Two separate centers — the Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Engineering and the Zell Lurie Institute at the Ross School of Business — have created strong entrepreneurial communities in their respective schools for students interested in the field. But these two schools combined only represent about a quarter of the entire student population, and their programs could be more accessible to the rest of the University. Although many of the CFE and the institute’s resources are open to all students, the University should make a broader effort to bring entrepreneurship opportunities to undergraduates across the entire campus.
At the moment, CFE offers the Program in Entrepreneurship as a nine-credit certificate program available to all students, and students can make appointments to discuss their concerns with the faculty at the institute. In addition to these two programs, there are a number of student organizations, such as MPowered, that are focused on entrepreneurship as well. These programs are a good start, but the fact that the University-educated founders and CEOs of such prominent companies as Google, Skype, Twitter and Groupon attended years before CFE or the institute’s inception suggests that there’s untapped potential within the student body.
But any new program shouldn’t simply emphasize launching tech startups or getting into the venture capital business. It should also promote cutting edge research, music and the arts, educational reform and even affecting policy through grassroots campaigns. At its core, entrepreneurship is about innovative thinking, taking risks and creating change. The University can incorporate such ideas into an intensive program even broader than that which it already has — perhaps in the form of an academic major or minor program — in order to encourage an innovative mindset in students of all majors. Along with adding to the depth of the University’s academic mission, this could also benefit Michigan’s economy by giving University-educated student entrepreneurs a stake in the state.
Promoting social entrepreneurship and the idea of serving a greater public good should also be a priority. The University has already produced a number of socially conscious entrepreneurs such as the team at Warmilu — a company making strides at reducing infant mortality across the world. Social entrepreneurship has great potential for making an impact on the world at large, and a concerted entrepreneurship push across the University should look to both existing academic programs and student organizations in order to take advantage of that potential.
The University is already one of the foremost academic institutions in the country. Broadening the entrepreneurship system and giving the student community access to more resources would enhance the academic experience offered.