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Message from


Executive Director

Fourteen years ago, the Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies set out to build a scalable entrepreneurship-education model that would allow Ross School of Business and other University of Michigan students to have a wondrous experience in developing their entrepreneurial acumen and hands-on abilities, and to leave with a strong capability in entrepreneurship. Our co-founding benefactors, Sam Zell and Ann Lurie, quoted the famous Chicago architect Daniel Burnham by directing us to make “no small plans…make big plans.”Of course, all involved with the Institute are excited to note our success in achieving that vision was validated recently. The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine ranked the Ross School and the Institute as the nation's No. 1 Graduate Program in Entrepreneurship

From the beginning days of the Institute, we have taken a rigorous academic, streetwise and community-engagement view of entrepreneurship. This eclectic and pragmatic approach has provided a strong foundation for building out and scaling our comprehensive curriculum and experiential programs. Over the years, we have created a set of entrepreneurial-studies courses, co-curricular activities and extracurricular programs that teach our students the fundamental principles of entrepreneurial business and allow them to put theory into practice by launching new ventures and investing real financial capital in real companies. To bring the outside world inside the Institute, we have recruited experienced entrepreneurs as adjuncts and lecturers in entrepreneurial studies and engaged our alumni to serve as mentors, judges, advisors and internship hosts. Finally, we have reached out to the entrepreneurial community and become an integral part of the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem. Concurrently, through our relationship with the Office of Technology Transfer, we have been able to be part of some of the commercialization of University research and the launching of spin-out companies. In addition, through the Institute's participation in State of Michigan initiatives we have helped bolster statewide efforts to spur innovation and accelerate economic development through entrepreneurship.

The Institute's major strength, and a key driver behind its success, has been our culture of experimentation and innovation. We have been willing to try new things and incorporate them into our model if they worked or modify them to make them better. Among the Institute's many highlights, we have launched three student-led investment funds, extended the Michigan Business Challenge to the entire campus, helped to establish the Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Engineering, and expanded the Gani Summer Internship and Dare to Dream grant programs. All this has been accomplished thanks to the generous support from our co-founding benefactors, Sam Zell and Ann Lurie, and more than 25 other significant donors, and the time freely given to the Institute and our students by many volunteers and mentors.

Over the last 14 years, in the broader world, there have been bumps in the entrepreneurial road, including the tech bubble, the biotech bubble and the growth and collapse of some of the financial intermediaries that drive venturing. The Institute has had to make some adjustments to our teaching and guidance, but the underpinnings of how to structure, finance, grow and invest in a business have not changed. In coming years, the Institute will continue to pioneer new initiatives that accelerate business launch, deepen community outreach, expand faculty recruitment and extend our presence in entrepreneurial hotspots.

For me, the most fulfilling part of my 14 years at the Institute has been the opportunity to work with creative, bright young people who are exploring their entrepreneurial interests and have lots of new ideas, but lack experience in creating and launching a business. It has been a thrill for me to be part of the team that has guided them, to see them do well and, ultimately, to change their lives. As I step down as executive director and return to teaching full-time, I look forward to helping the Institute shape the next generation of serial entrepreneurs, venture investors and corporate intrapreneurs. After all, that's why we're all here.

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