A print version of this article will appear in an upcoming issue of Bridges – The School of Management’s Alumni Magazine

By Dale Tuttle, Manager of University Outreach’s Innovation Incubator and the Director of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership

Over the past eight months the School of Management’s (SOM) Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (MCEL) has dedicated its staff and integrated its operations with University Outreach’s Innovation Incubator [IN]. MCEL’s mission is to enhance the experiential learning opportunities for students throughout campus while promoting the growth and success of businesses and not-for-profit organizations.

The opportunity to take the lead in program management of the [IN] was an excellent fit for my interests, for the mission of MCEL, and provides solid evidence of the SOM and University Outreach taking positive steps toward integrating entrepreneurial scholarship and practice across campus and into the community.

It’s important to acknowledge all the good being done by faculty, staff and students across the many colleges and departments of the university. Aside from the valuable contributions of SOM faculty, Assistant Professor of Marketing – Sy Banerjee; Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior & Human Resources – Brian Bloom; Assistant Professor of Management – Amy Gresock; and Professor of Accounting – Keith Moreland, the [IN] has had the good fortune of being the beneficiary of creative, high quality academic contributions from other faculty across campus including Rebecca Hayes – Assistant Professor of Communications and Visual Arts; and Traci Currie – Lecturer of Communication and Visual Arts. Our [IN] workshops, free and open to students and the community, have also featured staff, as well as current students and alumni. This year we were fortunate to have Danny Bledsoe, former Army Black Hawk Helicopter Pilot, owner of CenterMark Coaching and current Social Work student in the College of Arts and Sciences as well as Jeff Sabolish an SOM MBA alumnus and partner at Lewis & Knopf, present workshops on “Goal Setting and Follow Through” and “Small Business Accounting” respectively.

Our understanding is that innovation that leads to profit is not the exclusive domain of the SOM, just as creativity and innovative expressions of imagination are not the exclusive domains of the Arts and Sciences.

When we began working with the [IN] it had established a solid infrastructure and programmatic mission. In an early discussion with Jonathan Jarosz, Director of University Outreach, he explained how the [IN], funded through a grant awarded by C.S. Mott, supported a creative suite of student owned businesses as well as a technology suite. He went on to share his vision of creating a third suite which has become known as the Social Entrepreneurship Suite. At the time of that discussion the space envisioned to house the Social Entrepreneurship Suite was packed with stacked chairs and old desks. In just a few months the once cluttered space has become home to the School of Health Professions and Studies’ PT/Health Clinic’s administrative office, as well as to Wade Steelman, CIS student in the Computer Science Department of the College of Arts and Sciences, and owner of Businesses by Veterans.

The PT/Health Clinic, UM-Flint’s first “student sponsored” organization, is a wonderful innovation with a mission to provide physical therapy (PT) and health education services to Flint’s underserved populations. Its student leadership has established a field presence in Flint’s North-End Soup Kitchen with a “soft” opening this past January in which they have begun to offer health education services to the community and are planning to offer PT services as soon as adequate insurance coverage is obtained.

Businesses by Veterans is a web-based business focusing on enhancing the linkages and visibility of veteran owned businesses throughout Michigan and eventually the nation. Steelman’s efforts and the [IN]’s support of it are consistent with the notion that veterans are an important and deserving segment of our population that has earned our support in whatever ways we can manage it.

In the bigger picture, MCEL and [IN] represent student-centered shared activities across campus aligned with achieving UM-Flint’s strategic priorities associated with enhancing the quality and breadth of academic programs as well as expanding participation in civic engagement and experiential learning.