University of Michigan’s Growing Entrepreneurship Programs Among Top in the Nation

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At the beginning of her junior year, Sushmitha Diraviam and her research team were looking for ways to make a more immediate impact in their community. They ended up joining multiple entrepreneurship competitions on campus, including the LSA optiMize Social Innovation Partnership and the School of Public Health’s Innovation in Action.

“That was my first exposure to entrepreneurship, and I really began to get invested into the idea of creating an opportunity for yourself and the mindset of taking tangible steps to address a problem,” says Sushmitha, a neuroscience major in the College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts. When the minor in entrepreneurship was released shortly after her competition experience, Sushmitha signed up.

“I pursued the new minor in entrepreneurship hoping to further enhance my entrepreneurship experience and fill in the knowledge gaps to help me with my current venture and possible future ones,” she says.

There’s no question that demand for entrepreneurial skills is growing nationwide — and not just for individuals who want to start their own business. Companies here in Michigan and across the nation are searching for employees with “innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial mindsets” according to, a job search website.

At Michigan, preparing students for entrepreneurial success has been part of the fabric of the university since the nation’s first small business management course hit the books at the Ross School of Business in 1927. Since then, we’ve seen expansion of both curricular and co-curricular entrepreneurial offerings, with the most explosive growth occurring in the past few years.

With the launch of a new campus-wide minor in entrepreneurship in January 2015, an entrepreneurial education became available to all students at the University of Michigan. The 15-credit program attracts students from diverse areas of study, with enrollment currently representing over 46 majors in 7 undergraduate colleges.

When the minor launched, U-M President Mark Schlissel said the program “will provide students with knowledge they can use to further ignite their imaginations and pursue creative solutions to real world challenges.”

Recognizing a growing track record of excellence in entrepreneurship education, the University of Michigan was recently ranked as the nation’s 7th top institution for undergraduate entrepreneurship education, according to the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine. This is the second year the university has attained a spot among the top schools in the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine’s joint ranking of “The Top Schools for Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Programs.”

Michigan’s undergraduate program was recognized for making the largest upward leap of any other higher education institution in the 2016 ranking. In addition, the University of Michigan was named the No. 4 program for graduate entrepreneurship education.

“In this past decade, the field of entrepreneurship has become a necessary part of higher education curriculum across the United States,” said Oscar Ybarra, Director of Innovate Blue, the University of Michigan’s campus-wide innovation and entrepreneurship education initiative. “In 2012, the University of Michigan formally recognized this need and created Innovate Blue as a way to expand and connect programs in business, engineering, liberal arts, health, information and more, to create a truly collaborative entrepreneurial environment.”

The University of Michigan has seen tremendous interest and activity in innovation and entrepreneurship, from students across all schools and colleges on campus. In addition to the minor program, there now exist at least 15 centers and programs related to entrepreneurship, focusing on different aspects of entrepreneurship education, student challenges, and community events. There are also over 30 student organizations with an entrepreneurial focus. Here’s a look at some of the offerings across campus:

  • The University of Michigan offers 120 entrepreneurship and innovation related courses to undergraduate and graduate students combined. In the past four years, enrollment has exceeded 10,000.
  • The Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Ross School of Business engages Michigan students in real world learning around the globe. Launched in 1999, the Institute has granted over $2.5 million to student start-ups through its robust portfolio of program initiatives, which are supported by courses and community and alumni involvement.
  • The Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Engineering provides active learning experiences to more than 6,000 students and faculty across the University through classes and programs that teach the skills needed to successfully translate high-potential projects and ideas into the world. This year, the CFE launched a new program called the Entrepreneur Leadership Program for undergraduates, which blends experience-based classroom learning with real-world mentorship and work. Students will be mentored by experienced industry executives, and U-M alumni, bringing practical business and entrepreneurial experience into their education.
  • New programs and partnerships in social entrepreneurship have formed and expanded, including a student led initiative optiMize Social Innovation Partnership that is now formally part of the College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts. Plus, a Social Impact Track of the Michigan Business Challenge sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute and Center for Social Impact at Ross.
  • The School of Public Health’s Innovation in Action is open to all students and helps teams find entrepreneurial solutions to real world challenges. This year, the program expanded to partner with the School of Education.
  • The School of Information Entrepreneurship Program leads an annual Innovation Trek to New York, a Design Clinic in which student teams serve area entrepreneurial clients, and coursework in mobile application innovation.
  • The EXCEL Program (Excellence in Career Empowerment, Entrepreneurship & Leadership) at the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance works to empower students to be entrepreneurial and engage in rewarding careers related to their field of study.

For Sushmitha and students like her, these engaged learning opportunities are preparing them to be entrepreneurial no matter what career path they choose.

“I was following the standard pre-med curriculum as a neuroscience major before my exposure to entrepreneurship, but throughout my experience, I’ve learned that it’s more of a mindset rather than just purely the concept of creating your own business. The “why not me” attitude is applicable to so many other aspects of life, which adds great value to my education; this is one of the most relevant take-aways from my college career,” says Sushmitha.



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