Psssst…Are You Awake? I Have A Great Idea For A Company…

7/8/11

When most entrepreneurs wake up at night with their latest business or product idea, they would probably jot it down, go back to sleep and wait until the next morning to share it. But thanks to eRes, a new living-learning community at the University of Michigan, entrepreneurial-minded students can always find a sounding board for their ideas – even at 4 a.m.

“The original draw and I think what’s still the draw of the program is the ability to wake up in the middle of the night, have an idea for the next big thing and being able to turn to your roommate in the middle of night and talk to them about it,” says Jonathan Meed, a sophomore engineering student and member of the program’s pilot class this past academic year.

Like other living-learning programs at U-M, students live together in one of the school’s residence halls with the goal of creating a community around shared interests. So far, interest in eRes remains high. This coming academic year, the program will expand to more than 20 students, more than triple its original size.

Greg Merritt, senior associate director of University Housing and the director of residence education, attributes eRes’ popularity to a surge in student interest across the country in living communities that focus on entrepreneurship, sustainability and globalization. Miami University (Ohio), the University of Iowa and Oklahoma State University all offer innovation-focused living-learning communities.

“It’s certainly gaining traction, it’s one of the things that’s interesting lots of institutions,” Merritt says. “We can see the connection between the in and outside the classroom and the integrated learning that takes place.”

Meed, the engineering student, says he realized his initial startup idea wasn’t viable after consulting his fellow eRes members throughout the year. However, living with aspiring entrepreneurs has fired him up, he says.

“I’m reinvigorated if anything to work on something,” Meed says. “It’s kind of the starting point for entrepreneurs and not necessarily the business ideas themselves.”

eRes also differs from U-M’s other living-learning communities in that students plan and run the program.

Last year, the program’s curriculum included a workshop with Doug Neal, the Managing Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and a competition that sent student teams around U-M’s student union to pitch a fake company based on a noun-adjective combination drawn from a hat.

“Working on eRes is a chance for me to help other people realize that the ideas that everyone has, you can move those forward if you want,” says project co-director Adam Feldman. “So even if you’re not going to go on a start a company, the entrepreneurial mindset can be very helpful in whatever you’re doing.”

Prateek Greg, the president of MPowered Entrepreneurship, the group spearheading eRes, says students are working with administration officials to officially recognize eRes as a living-learning community.

Once the university officially attaches the program to an academic unit, then its status as a living-learning community will become more solidified, Merritt says. Until then, housing officials can still help interested students reside in the same hall and assign resident advisors with an interest in entrepreneurship to the floors housing the program.

Scott Christopher, a freshman in U-M’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts says he plans to live in eRes come fall because he wants to meet students with a similar desire to solve problems they see around them.

“Entrepreneurship is really something that I believe can be adapted to anything in life, if it’s a family, if it’s a business,” Christopher says. “All entrepreneurship boils down to is actively solving problems. I view it as really tackling problems head first.”

Jillian Berman is an intern for Xconomy Detroit. Follow @

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