Michigan State University students have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit since the earliest days when they left campus following graduation to run family farms. Fast-forward to today when early returns from our 2011 graduate survey show that at least 20 students said they’d started businesses already. Some 8,500 undergraduates have indicated interest in an entrepreneurial career in the last three years in our online careers survey.
That spirit is recognized beyond mid-Michigan. Entrepreneur magazine has named East Lansing among the top 10 U.S. college communities promoting creative entrepreneurial initiatives, and business-oriented Kiplinger rated Lansing as one of the top 10 great cities for young adults.
At a curricular level, MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business offers entrepreneurship options at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as executive development and weekend MBA programs. In 2011, the Broad College initiated an annual business plan competition. The competition included a “boot camp” designed to help students understand the components of a well-developed business plan. Awards of up to $5,000 were made to students with the best business plans.
Entrepreneurship courses and programs also are offered also in many other colleges around campus. For example, the College of Communication Arts and Science’s new Integrated Media Arts Curriculum is oriented to the 21st-century mass media environment, including its increasing focus on entrepreneurship.
One program that goes beyond the boundaries of the campus is the MSU Entrepreneurship Network, an innovation-focused course leading to a certificate in entrepreneurship that also is open to nonstudents. The third and final course, promoting business start-ups, will be offered by msuENet in the fall.
The university oversees $1.6 million in endowed funds to capitalize qualifying student business plans through the msuENet program, thanks to a $1 million gift from the Forest Akers Trust and a $600,000 endowment established by the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation specifically for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)-related business concepts.
The Hatch, a campus/community cooperative student business incubator located in the East Lansing Technology Incubation Center close to MSU’s technology transfer and business liaison offices, also supports the student start-up initiative.
Several formal and informal student entrepreneur organizations flourish on campus, including the Mid-Michigan Innovation Club for Entrepreneurs (ICE), sponsored by the MSU Land Policy Institute and the MSU Entrepreneurship Network. ICE hosts speakers and partners with community and campus organizations to produce an annual “start-up weekend” and a business plan pitch competition.
Not everyone is cut out for self-employment, however, and entrepreneurship can be exercised in many work environments. Many of MSU’s best endorsements come from employer recruiters. Our Career Gallery career fair last fall—the largest of its kind in the state—drew record student and employer participation. Some 5,845 students and alumni attended, up 15 percent from the prior year. More than 300 companies recruited there, up 11 percent.
The university’s reputation for developing talent isn’t just local. Last fall MSU was ranked as a top recruiting ground in a study published in the New York Times/International Herald Tribune. MSU was ranked among the top 40 institutions worldwide by the heads of leading companies in 10 countries.