To connect students with professionals and help them launch their own businesses, the College of Engineering will offer courses on entrepreneurship next semester.

“The classes are in response to students’ requests to learn more of the mechanics of being an entrepreneur, so we’re really excited about offering these courses,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the director of the University’s Center for Entrepreneurial Programs.

The student initiative came from the student entrepreneur organization MPowered, which was formed this semester to help student entrepreneurs connect with potential investors and understand what it means to run a small business.

“We have an extremely receptive student base,” said Ashwin Lalendran, a junior in the College of Engineering and president of MPowered.

The group has been working with the center to expose students to entrepreneurship and help create the courses.

“This is truly a collaborative effort, and that makes the result even better,” Lalendran said.

The courses, open to students of any major and each worth one credit, will be taught by professionals like attorneys and businesspeople who may not be University professors.

“The strategy is that we’ll bring in people who do this every day as opposed to people who do research on how to do it,” Zurbuchen said. “We want to generate and create opportunity for more students and get them excited about creating something as opposed to just listening to what professors have to say.”

Zurbuchen said the Engineering courses will be designed to allow students to interact with various individuals who work as entrepreneurs. Speakers will include business leaders, venture capitalists, attorneys and other individuals involved in entrepreneurship.

“We hope it will become a real meeting place for entrepreneurs,” Zurbuchen said.

The Ross School of Business already offers some courses in entrepreneurship, but those are targeted at business school undergraduates and MBA students.

A reception will take place after some class meetings to allow students to interact with the speakers and form connections that may help them when they graduate.

One class focuses on ways businesses can find early investors and raise start-up money. It will be taught by a group of faculty members who are venture capitalists in Ann Arbor.

A practicing patent attorney in Ann Arbor will teach a course that focuses on intellectual property dealing with patent law.

“Many of our students really worry about losing property rights to their ideas, and we really want them to be informed about their rights and about their opportunities,” said Zurbuchen said.

He said the courses will “meet an incredible demand” for something more than what is already offered at the University.

On the day classes were announced, the MPowered website – which usually gets an average of 50 to 60 unique hits each day – had more than 350 unique hits, according to Lalendran.

The courses are part of a University of Michigan trend that centers on entrepreneurship as a way to further incorporate research to help rebuild the Michigan economy.

The University recently announced the Michigan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative – a $100 million effort backed by the state’s public colleges, private companies and philanthropic organizations – to promote academic entrepreneurship.

Stephen Forrest, the University’s vice president for research, said in an interview last week that education and training for budding entrepreneurs is one of the initiative’s priorities. He said the state’s public colleges and universities will play a large role in promoting entrepreneurial growth.

“What we’re proposing to do is to really change the game in the state of Michigan,” Forrest said. “We have a lot of work to do to transform our economy.”

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