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Entrepreneurship and the Zell Lurie Institute at Michigan / Ross

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CA: What do you think is the value for studying entrepreneurship for any student? For example: Someone who may be going into consulting, marketing or finance, but who’s not launching their own business.
ST: There are probably two answers to that question. The first answer is we try to use a pretty broad definition of Entrepreneurship, which is not constrained to starting a company or starting a business. We are really getting people to think about entrepreneurial behaviors: how do you identify a problem, how you come up with solutions that offer value to people, and then how you act on the solution to make it happen? When you think of that as entrepreneurial behavior, you can bring that to bear in pretty much any setting.

You hear people talk about corporate entrepreneurship as this special thing, but you can apply entrepreneurship in public service, in your community, in a school, or in the military. An entrepreneurial mindset and entrepreneurial behavior is essentially looking for ways to make something better for someone else and then doing something about it to create value. Sometimes that’s expressed in the formation of a new company, which is great. Sometimes it’s a new way of doing things in the office or doing things in the factory that simply improve processes or make people’s lives better. You still create value; it’s just not set up as a separate organization. So, whether you are a consultant, or a banker or an administrator, there are always ways to be entrepreneurial. I think studying entrepreneurship and learning about it while you’re in school helps instill that mindset.

The second part of the answer really has to do with the longer-term goals of the students. Very few students start companies the day that they graduate. But, if I’m in a room with MBA students and I ask them, “How many of you would like to lead or run your own company someday?” almost all the hands go up. So, it’s a long-term goal for most—if not all—students. And by getting that education while they’re in school, it prepares students for the time when that leadership opportunity presents itself.  It could be five years after graduation or 20 years after graduation, but if they have in their mind “here’s what you have to do to start a company; here’s what you have to do to get things going; here are some of the skills I can draw upon,” when they see an opportunity, they’re much better situated to act on it.

CA: Do you expect students to take part in the pre-launch, launch and the growth and exit stages, or can they come in at any time? Is there expected to be a specific entry point, or are students encouraged to take what best fits their career plans and skill-based goals?
ST: We see students across the full spectrum. We have students who start their MBA who have companies they’ve been running for years. They continue to run their companies on the side while they’re at school, and then return to them after graduation.

We also have students who literally come through the door saying, “How do I learn about this entrepreneurship thing?” They don’t even have an idea at that point, but they want to know, “How do I come up with an idea?” or “How do I know if an idea is a good one?” It’s not just on the venture side, either. We have a huge level of student interest in social entrepreneurship. One of our student funds is a social venture fund.

So, there is the interest side: “How do you want to create value? How do you create an organization?” There is also the support ecosystem around Entrepreneurship; the companies that help entrepreneurs get started, including the investment funds that help entrepreneurs get their venture capital.

It’s really trying to take an ecosystem approach so students can enter at various points in the ecosystem, as well as along the development continuum.

Go to the next page for more on specific entrepreneurial offerings at Ross.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.