Monday, February 16, 2009

The Future of the University of Michigan Depends on Entrepreneurs!

I don’t say this to everyone, but here it goes…

There’s more to education than professors, classrooms, labs and writing papers. Engineering education – even a great education at the University of Michigan – requires the participation of community partners who provide hands-on experience with aspects of entrepreneurship that students wouldn’t encounter on-campus.

That’s why the University is looking for individuals who’ll come to campus and discuss their challenges and real-world problem-solving. In the words of those old “Uncle Sam” recruitment posters, “We want you.”

Contact us at the Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE). Soon. Now. While we’re talking, we’ll tell you what’s going on, here:

1) This week we’re launching a new research program for small companies. It’s one of those win-win propositions – a good deal for the business and their bottom line, and a good deal for the University and its students. 2) We’re matching companies with energetic, highly intelligent, unusually motivated Michigan Engineering students who need advisors, role-models and challenging projects such as those going on at your company. 3) We’ve put together new classes that allow students to work in companies, paired with a set of activities at U-M, to get academic credit. 4) We run a job fair – the MPowered Career Fair – that connects small companies with U-M students and we will also shortly announce an internship program for Michigan students to work in companies right here.

A lot of leaders talk about the importance of keeping students in Michigan, because talent and drive are invaluable. You can help by hiring them as interns, because those who intern in Michigan are three times as likely to stay and take a job with the company that they’ve come to know. Right now, the Nation’s large companies aren’t hiring much, so some of the best students won’t have jobs for the summer. And Michigan’s entrepreneurship support organizations – the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, SmartZones, Employment Training and Community Services, the chambers of commerce, etc. – aren’t setting up fellowship programs in which small Michigan companies hire interns from universities throughout the State – U-M isn’t the only Michigan institution with gifted students who need support.

There’s unique opportunity in Michigan right now to create something new – a truly modern innovative entrepreneurial community. We’re here, ready to play ball. It’s not just because we’re part of this community; it’s because it elevates who we are and what we will become.

Yes, a lot of leaders talk. Now I’m challenging them to walk the walk. Are you one of them? Prove it – make a commitment… hire Michigan students… mentor them… teach them in your real-world classroom… help their professors. Show them the excitement and gratification of entrepreneurship. Then keep them for yourselves. Keep them in Michigan to help work on our common goals.

Thomas Zurbuchen is director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and a professor of Space Science and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan College of Engineering.

This post appears simultaneously on Metromodecom.