U-M’s Entrepreneurial Community Unites

By Innovate Blue student associates Spencer Peterson and Mathias Arkayin

On a fittingly cold evening this past Thursday, hundreds of students gathered in the Michigan Union Ballroom to celebrate ICE: the community of innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs on campus.

Exhibitors included representatives from 14 academic units including the Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering, the Center for Social Impact, Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Ross School of Business, Zell Entrepreneurship and Law Program, Tech Arb, School of Information, School of Public Health, School of Nursing, Stamps School of Art and Design, Barger Leadership Institute, U-M Libraries, 25 student ventures, 13 student organizations and community members like Ann Arbor Spark, Google and Grand Circus Detroit. The event provided an opportunity to mingle, celebrate, and display the power of Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem that hadn’t been done before.

The first ever Winterblast allowed visitors and creators from all walks of life to connect with peers from different backgrounds and, as a result, redefine the way they think about entrepreneurship. An undergraduate at the Stamps School of Art + Design shared that before Winterblast, she had never considered her work, her designs, or her art to be a form of innovation or creation – she just saw it as work. Winterblast helped her realize that what she’s doing is no different from business students making pitch decks or engineers developing lines of code.

This was a powerful realization for many students who are entrepreneurs in nearly every sense except for that with which they perceive themselves. After all, 20% of Michigan’s 535,000 alumni are entrepreneurs – and they represent all 19 colleges. Winterblast gave students the stage to flip this mental switch, to realize the immense resources at their disposal, and to be inspired by their peers.

Heidi Terpstra, the President of OptiMize, a student organization focused on creating social change, said it was “a great way to expand our presence and network with other orgs.”

Exhibits let participants experience some of the best U-M innovation first hand and include a medical procedure simulation man from the School of Nursing’s Clinical Learning Center, an entrepreneurial game show by the Center for Entrepreneurship, and live product demos from student ventures and organizations, including tea samples from Mate Bros and a ping-pong basketball challenge from Go Green Technologies.

“Meeting entrepreneurs is refreshing and energizing, and Winterblast was the perfect way to bring Michigan’s entrepreneurial community together,” said Ben Rathi, co-founder of  Blueprints for Pangaea, and recent winner of the Zell Lurie Institute’s Michigan Business Challenge Social Track award. “We were excited to speak to aspiring student entrepreneurs and hope to continue being involved in Innovate Blue’s initiatives to showcase Michigan’s entrepreneurial talent.”

Praveen Loganathan, co-founder of Go Green Technologies, shared a similar view. “It was amazing how the event informed the U of M community about the true meaning of being an entrepreneur. To me, being an entrepreneur is more than starting your own company, it’s about being innovative in the work we do. And I am glad I got to share this message tonight,” he said.

“So many U-M students are innovators,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, senior counselor for entrepreneurial education. “ICE showcased this talent and encourages others to access the university’s incredible menu of involvement options that help students act on their ideas, from classes, student organizations, research opportunities, competitions, funding and more.”

Find out more about innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship events at U-M this winter.

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