The University’s Center for Entrepreneurship is spearheading a new graduate program to prioritize alternate forms of learning.
Mikhail Zolikoff, the recently-appointed director of Graduate Programs, will lead the new program with David Wentzloff, co-director of Graduate Education in CFE.
Zolikoff tied the curriculum’s focus on innovating through the implementation and commercialization research to the department’s mission.
“The next big thing doesn’t necessarily have to be an app,” Zolikoff said. “There’s a lot of good groundbreaking, life-changing work that’s happening right here at the University of Michigan and it’s enabling our students to recognize those opportunities and do something with them.”
The program will aim to recruit students from a variety of demographic backgrounds to change the way entrepreneurs are typically envisioned.
“The majority of tech entrepreneurship is very white and very male and there are a lot of benefits to being more inclusive in the area of entrepreneurship,” Zolikoff said. “I very much want that to be a thread throughout this program.”
Sarah Bachleda, communication and marketing maven for the CFE, said professors in the new program will offer an experience-based education.
“We will be having teachers, and staff members and mentors who actually have gone through a lot of technology, science-based entrepreneurship themselves,” she said. “When they teach it, they can speak directly from the experiences they have and they can encourage students to learn by doing rather than just reading a textbook about it.”
The CFE recently phased out its former Masters of Entrepreneurship graduate program to make room for this new one. The College of Engineering and the Ross School of Business operated the previous program for three years.
“This is the first time CFE has its own dedicated program director who’s focusing on the new direction that our graduate programs are going to take,” Bachleda said.
Zolikoff said the high demand among STEM students for entrepreneurial training was a prominent reason for creating the new program.
His decision to accept the appointment and satisfy the demand for marketing science technology derives from his belief that the school needs more innovators. He said students must question the status quo.
“It’s giving them those tools so that they’re not just thinking about their technology for technology’s sake but thinking to themselves, ‘Well how can I take this and change the world?’ ” he said.
To encourage innovation, Zolikoff said he hopes to find ways to confidence in their own ideas.
“There is high fear and low confidence in terms of people’s belief in themselves, that they can take an idea that they have and commercialize it or apply it to an existing organization,” he said. “We very much want to rebirth those numbers lower the fear and increase the confidence and tell them, ‘You have great ideas, now let’s do something with it.’ ”
Though the graduate curriculum aims to inspire entrepreneurship across all fields of graduate study, the program prioritizes engineering. Wentzloff, who wants to represent the faculty voice, named engineering as the starting point, at least during the program’s nascent stages. Wentzloff said that he and Zolikoff have been in contact with other University colleges.
“We’ve initially started by talking with the deans of other school in graduate education about their plans for their curriculum and what their needs are and how they are approaching entrepreneurship programs in their own schools, if they are,” he said.
Both Zolikoff and Wentzloff have backgrounds in entrepreneurship at the University, including involvement in student startups. The two plan to work together to address the needs of both students and faculty within the department.
“He’s on top of everything and is extremely efficient at teasing out the information we need,” Wentzloff said. “Bottom line is, he’s been great to work with.”