Last year, only one Central Student Government presidential candidate made entrepreneurship a major platform point. Manish Parikh, currently a business senior, became the first independent candidate to win the CSG presidency in years. In this year’s election, candidates are taking notice and building on the current administration’s entrepreneurial efforts.
Parikh said the perception of CSG in 2011 was that of a “bureaucratic, slow-moving machine with a lot of cogs in the system,” so his message of reform appealed to voters.
“I think entrepreneurship, and more so the entrepreneurial mindset, was extremely crucial for us in the last election,” Parikh said.
This year has been marked with several entrepreneurial programs and events, including the Entrepreneurship Commission, the MHacks student hackathon and the Month of Entrepreneurship.
“I think (entrepreneurship) got students on campus really fired up, that (we) had fresh thoughts, fresh ideas and that (we) were willing to flip CSG around — make it more innovative and focus on (new) projects,” Parikh said.
Tom Erdmann, an organizer of MHacks, which took the title of the nation’s largest college hackathon, said entrepreneurship has been growing on campus “in part because of Central Student Government and particularly the Entrepreneurship Commission.”
He added that this year has been the first year he’s seen CSG strongly support entrepreneurship on campus.
“I think it’s really critical that we continue to build on that obviously in this election and the next couple of years,” Erdmann said.
Erdmann said more students on campus are starting to identify as entrepreneurs and starting companies, particularly in the technology sphere.
Business junior Scott Christopher, president of MPowered and chair of the E-Commission chair, is the CSG presidential candidate with the most firsthand entrepreneurship experience. He said that in recent years, entrepreneurship on campus has had “peaks and valleys,” but that in the last year, the entrepreneurial mindset has been consistently growing.
“There are many students across all schools and all majors who are entrepreneurial and are starting to say, ‘I am entrepreneurial,’ ” Christopher said.
One goal in particular for Christopher is to have CSG partner with student start-ups. He mentioned A2 Cribs — a website which helps students sort through off-campus housing options — as a potential partner, among others.
LSA freshman Nick Swider, the presidential candidate for momentUM, said he wants not only to keep the Entrepreneurship Commission the most-well funded CSG commission, but he also wants to see its funding increased.
“I think we need to keep entrepreneurship in the forefront,” Swider said. “Granted, don’t get too carried away with things, but at the same time still make it a pinnacle of what CSG is doing because it’s such a feather in our cap.”
LSA junior Chris Osborn, the presidential candidate of forUM, said the party is focusing on “experiential learning” in entrepreneurship like the proposed “Flipped Semester” where students work on self-directed projects while earning nine credits.
“Nowadays, it’s becoming more and more integral for students to have experience-based learning than just education-based learning,” Osborn said.
Public Policy senior Alex Lane of forUM said entrepreneurship is in the hands of entrepreneurs, and that CSG “can’t really make entrepreneurship happen.” Rather, he said a forUM administration would “foster the connections and programs so students can do most of it themselves.”
Business junior Mike Proppe, the presidential candidate of youMICH, echoed Osborn, saying the methods by which students are taught entrepreneurship is changing.
“We have two new regents who are both small-business owners, so they understand this could be where the model of education is going,” he said. “There is an opportunity for the University of Michigan to get ahead on this and start preparing kids to go out in the world and have the skills to innovate and start their own business.”
Proppe said youMICH is looking at the Master of Entrepreneurship program and seeing if similar academic options can be offered to undergraduates, perhaps with a specific learning community.
“I think (entrepreneurship is) an issue that it is rightfully being brought to the forefront by students. I think students recognize the importance of it they recognize the importance of innovation,” Proppe said. “I think that’s why you see it in a lot of the student government campaigns, and it’s something that CSG can have an impact on.”