WMU launches new entrepreneurship opportunities for students

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Photo of WMU's Schneider Hall.

WMU's Schneider Hall

KALAMAZOO—Adding to a growing number of entrepreneurial activities available for Western Michigan University students, two new programs—an entrepreneurship major offered through the Haworth College of Business and a universitywide entrepreneurship minor open to all students—will be available beginning this fall.

"Our students are very entrepreneurial in nature. Many come to WMU with a business already underway and business ideas that they would like to pursue," says Dr. Kay Palan, dean of the Haworth College of Business. "We saw a need to offer first-class education in entrepreneurship to meet the needs of our students—and ultimately the needs of the economy. Hiring faculty with expertise in entrepreneurship, engaging with entrepreneurs in the business community and offering co-curricular initiatives have all laid the groundwork for rigorous, hands-on courses of study for students looking to launch their own businesses."

Two paths to entrepreneurship

Offering both a new major and a minor provides two paths to entrepreneurship. Students can develop skills necessary for a professional life in entrepreneurship or they can develop skills to enhance their interest in a particular field.

"Students have the choice of putting entrepreneurship at the center of their studies and adding technical skills through the track options, or putting their technical skills at the center of their studies while adding entrepreneurial skills to their knowledge base," says Dr. John Mueller, assistant professor of management and advisor for the major.

The entrepreneurship minor is a universitywide program with the purpose of providing students from any major with a foundation in entrepreneurial concepts and an entrepreneurial perspective on their major area of study.

According to Dr. Tycho Fredericks, professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering and coordinator for the minor in the college of engineering and applied sciences, the new minor emphasizes creativity, value propositions, product and service design, finance and teamwork.

"Graduates of this minor will quickly find that they have a distinctive edge over their competition," Fredericks says.

"The universitywide entrepreneurship minor provides the opportunity for all WMU students to examine their chosen major and future career direction through an entrepreneurial lens," says Dr. Laurel Ofstein, assistant professor of management. "Students from music to the arts, education to engineering, science to fashion, and beyond, will gain key entrepreneurial skills and the confidence to start their own business one day."

WMU's entrepreneurship major combines courses from multiple disciplines in the Haworth College of Business, including management, finance, marketing, business information systems and accounting. In creating the major, the business college developed new courses in entrepreneurial marketing, small business finance, funding new and growing ventures, technology entrepreneurship, and legal aspects of entrepreneurship. The major provides students with the ability to understand how business ideas and companies develop and to possibly start their own company around their business ideas.

Significant community and industry interest in adding the major at WMU and a growing entrepreneurial landscape in the area in addition to student interest led to the development of the major. 

"This increased entrepreneurial spirit at WMU is a way for the University and the Kalamazoo startup community to be connected in a stronger fashion,” says Bobby Hopewell, mayor of the city of Kalamazoo.

Entrepreneurship at WMU

Recognizing that there is not a single path for entrepreneurs, the University's new entrepreneurial offering is a business major limited to just 40 students per year. The minor is open to all WMU students. Students develop idea generation, opportunity recognition, resource acquisition and entrepreneurial management skills, and have opportunities to start their own companies or develop business ideas.

The major and minor join other entrepreneurial offerings at WMU, including Starting Gate, a student business accelerator; the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Pitch, a WMU business pitch competition held each spring; the industrial and entrepreneurial engineering program; the Entrepreneurship Forum, a monthly speaker series hosted by the college of business; the Entrepreneurial Arts Workshop, which includes courses and speaking events in the School of Music; and the Entrepreneur Club, a student-run organization open to all WMU students.

For more information, visit wmich.edu/entrepreneurship.