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Friday, 06 July 2012 16:31

Ferris seeks stronger ties to business with new Entrepreneurship Institute

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BIG RAPIDS — Ferris State University joins the ranks of institutions of higher education intentionally focusing on entrepreneurship with the creation of the Entrepreneurial Institute, which launched last fall. 

The institute is the brainchild of Ferris First, a group organized by the university's Strategic Planning Commission and Resource Council.

Shirish Grover, assistant professor of management in the college of business and coordinator of the Entrepreneurship Center, said he was invited to join the Ferris First group about two years ago. The group's goal is to look forward and plan the university's programming for the economy of the future.

Ferris First identified building an entrepreneurship program as one of the programs on which the university should focus to help its students, entrepreneurs and local businesses. The statewide conversation around entrepreneurship and growing small businesses helped spur the discussion about what Ferris could do to contribute.

"In the last couple of years, ideas to support (entrepreneurship) have become more prominent," he said. "We took some momentum from that and put it into what we wanted to do."

Grover, a native of India, has a background in human resources management, business management and information technology. He said it is important for Ferris to be a part of the entrepreneurship conversation because it can open doors to a number of resources and expertise that could prove valuable for students and others in the community.

"There are undergraduate students looking to find out more about being an entrepreneur and we have non-traditional students with experience, who may have plateaued in their careers or are unemployed and are looking for something else," he said. "We need to address the needs of the state as well as those who interested in exploring entrepreneurship."

The institute will eventually operate out of the school's Big Rapids and Grand Rapids campuses, and in some capacity at its 17 other satellite locations, likely through providing online resources.

Grover said the university has had conversations with other institutions, including Grand Valley State University, which recently launched its own Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is a collaborative exercise that is going to take input from various community partners, he said.

"We want to draw resources from different colleges and other partners to get a complete curriculum," Grover said. "Some needs are different than others based on locality, and this allows us to be flexible and responsive to those needs. We want this to be an applied partnership with other entrepreneurial entities."

An example of the kind of partnerships the university wants to foster is the work it does with Generation E, the Battle Creek-based organization focusing on youth entrepreneurship education. Both groups work together on entrepreneurial programming in middle schools, with a goal of trying to introduce ideas earlier and find inputs that help build high school and college-level curricula.

The university also started its own chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, an affiliate of the national group of student entrepreneurs that hosts speakers, workshops and competitions.

By acting as a resource center for aggregating and disseminating information related to entrepreneurship, the university plans to hold a "business boot camp" for entrepreneurs next summer. Grover said the camp would take participants through the process of ideation to commercialization with interaction from venture capitalists, lawyers and area entrepreneurs.

By next fall, Grover hopes to institute a four-class package leading to a certificate in entrepreneurial studies. Eventually, Grover wants to build a bachelor's degree in entrepreneurial studies, then a master's program, he said.

"The certificates could fit into any student's program at no additional cost," he said. "I'm confident we'll gain approval to offer these certificates over the next two semesters. The relevance of the college can only be improved by having these types of programs."

Building these programs is not about raking in tuition dollars for the university, Grover said. Instead it's about trying to reduce the failure rate for entrepreneurs starting out and building an environment for good ideas.

Another more long-term goal for the institute is establishing an entrepreneurial incubator that hosts entrepreneurs and serves their needs.

"This will help us more engage the business community we are a part of and help students and entrepreneurs take the next step and execute their ideas," he said.

Grover said he is in conversations with the Michigan Business Incubator Association about how the Ferris incubator could maximize its effectiveness.

"We are looking at what our unique space could be in Michigan and West Michigan," he said. "There is active interest in an incubator with a rural agriculture focus."

Read 1854 times Last modified on Saturday, 28 July 2012 18:44

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