Entrepreneurship leader from CMU takes part in forum at MSU on economic growth

Leaders of entrepreneurial studies programs from seven Michigan universities met for the first time ever to share ideas, offer support and network on Dec. 8 and 9 at Michigan State University.

Deb Zellner, executive director of the Isabella Bank Institute for Entrepreneurship at Central Michigan University, was joined by representatives from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Eastern Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University.

Tim Faley, managing director of the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan, planned and hosted the forum along with Shawnee Vickery, co-director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Demmer Legacy Fellow at MSU. Faley said the goal of the forum was to provide a support system for universities to bounce ideas off of one another and share programs that work.

“I was a little bit shocked that there had been no such thing before," Faley said. "Part of our mission is to think of entrepreneurship as a virus that needs to be spread. We spread the virus across U-M, the state, and the globe. It just seemed natural to help other schools across the state.”

Zellner said the experience was valuable and she will definitely attend the next forum, scheduled for early May.

“The university representatives participating in this forum were open, honest and sincerely interested in helping our students create new ventures, or be a part of a current venture in Michigan,” Zellner said. “Often, university departments are insular in their approach. This forum was a good example of our entrepreneurial mindset working to enhance the environment where we all reside.”

Each university had the opportunity to share their ideas and progress in their programs and receive feedback from the other universities.

“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 encourage an entrepreneurial mindset, whether we’re working on our own or trying to infuse a corporate workspace,” Vickery said.

Faley said one of the most powerful parts of the forum was the bonds formed between each university representative.

“We now know each other and have resources that we didn’t have before. If something comes up, we have people to call that are no longer strangers,” he said.

Out of the forum, an expectation surfaced that as entrepreneurship programs begin to work together to become stronger and more students graduate within the programs, Michigan’s economy will see a boost.

“Sharing best practices, collaborating and learning from our mistakes will serve to improve our chances of economic growth,” Zellner said.

As the forum came to a close, the representatives agreed that meeting twice a year would be appropriate.

“I’m really excited. I was shocked that the response was amazingly positive and enthusiastic when I emailed all these professors that were strangers to me,” Faley said. “(The forum) was very powerful and I think it will just get more beneficial as we have more of them.”


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