U-M Center for Entrepreneurship expanding to include main campus library presence
Ben Freed | AnnArbor.com
The center, housed in the college of engineering, currently is based in the Chrysler Center on North Campus. Associate Dean Thomas Zurbuchen said the new office will allow the center to help the university rethink what libraries are used for.
“Instead of having a space where someone says ‘shhhh,’ it’s going to be a lot more noisy in there, because people will be creating new ideas,” he said.
“Libraries are evolving from a place where they were mostly books and just a few people to being mostly about the people and nurturing their ideas.”
The move to the central library is another piece in the expansion of student entrepreneurship that has been happening across campus.
Courtesy University of Michigan
The center’s offices on North Campus also will be moving next semester. The new location will be next to the U-M 3D Lab in the Duderstadt Center.
The lab also is a part of the library system, and Zurbuchen said he hopes the center’s proximity to it will help encourage students to not be afraid to build their own models and prototypes.
Until now, the emphasis on entrepreneurial activity had been concentrated in the engineering and business schools.
“What you see now is that we’re evolving towards a more campus-wide approach towards entrepreneurship and this space is just a symptom of that,” Zurbuchen said.
The Office of the Provost provided funding for the new space, and vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs Martha Pollack said the investment came as a result of the emphasis on inter-campus engagement.
“This is a broad initiative. It supports students across schools and colleges, particularly our undergraduate students,” she said. “It’s exactly the kind of thing the provost’s office likes to support.”
A primary function of the new space will be to provide meeting space for individual entrepreneurial students as well as student organizations.
“Just having a space that’s dedicated to this kind of activity is so important,” Doug Neal, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, said.
“We think it’s critical that people enter the space from a variety of backgrounds and schools and come together in one place. It’s when people with different ideas come together that truly disruptive innovation takes place.”
The other key component of the space will be the advising and mentorship that will be made available to students who are attempting to create their own company or bring an idea to market.
“There will be student advisors there, they will be able to provide peer mentorship to provide guidance on what sort of resources the university has to offer,” Neal said.
“Then there will be an advisor staff member who will be there to provide additional support and show students what sort of entrepreneurship-focused classes they can register for and give that sort of assistance.”
Zurbuchen said he also hopes that the space’s proximity to downtown Ann Arbor will make it another intersection point for students with the leaders of the area’s growing startup community.
“We want to be helping students find the opportunities at the best companies around,” he said.
“The energy companies, the software companies — we want to give them all the opportunities we can to have a creative and entrepreneurial career. Then, if they choose to stay in the region, or even if they don’t, they can feed back into the ecosystem.”