Leaders of Entrepreneurial Programs From MI Universities Gather

12/13/11Follow @XconomyDET

Last Thursday and Friday, leaders of entrepreneurial studies programs from seven Michigan universities met in Lansing for the Michigan Entrepreneurship Leaders Forum, where they discussed what’s working in their individual programs, how they might be able to collaborate in the future, and how all of their efforts might help boost the state’s economy.

“I’ve been in the business school since 1983, and I can’t remember hosting a joint event like this in 30 years,” says Shawnee K. Vickery, co-director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Demmer Legacy Fellow at Michigan State University. “If it’s happened before, it’s happened rarely.”

Joining Vickery at the summit, which was held at the Henry Executive Development Center, were Tim Faley, managing director of the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan (pictured above); Deb Zellner, executive director of the Isabella Bank Institute for Entrepreneurship at Central Michigan University; Stephanie Newell of the College of Business at Eastern Michigan University; J. Kevin McCurren of the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University; Margaret Williams, interim dean of Wayne State University’s School of Business; and Timothy B. Palmer, interim director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Western Michigan University. Officials from Michigan Technological University were invited and expected to attend, but were snowed in at the last minute.

“This kind of meeting is way unusual, though it’s more natural for entrepreneurial programs,” Faley says. “We already interface with the community, so it’s not a big stretch to say, ‘Let’s include other schools.’ It’s not like we’re competing directly—we can learn from them and they can learn from us. But most departments are more insular and don’t work this way.”

Both Vickery and Faley agreed that the meeting went well and spoke highly of all the participants. Topics of discussion included how they might come together on events and community-oriented proposals, or leverage each other’s strengths.

“It was really a shot in the arm to see how we can all share with each other to help our sister institutions be successful,” Vickery says. “It’s inspiring to see how much is going on across the state. It provided a great venue for us to share ideas, best practices, and what we’re doing to inculcate an entrepreneurial mindset whether we’re working on our own or trying to infuse a corporate workspace.”

Faley echoed those sentiments, and said he was surprised to learn, for instance, that Central Michigan has a 300-person undergraduate program in entrepreneurialism.

All participants agreed to meet again in May, where Faley expects something more concrete to come out of the summit as opposed to last week’s gathering, which was mostly spent sharing “baseline information.”

“Why did this work? Because of everybody’s desire to be collaborative,” Faley points out. “There was none of the usual posturing. Everybody honestly wants to improve what they’re doing at their school.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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