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Entrepreneurship & Innovation Certification Takes Off at the Mike Ilitch School of Business


When Mike and Marian Ilitch made their historic $40 million donation to the business school at Wayne State University in 2015, the Little Caesars Pizza co-founders said they wanted to support the next generation of Detroit entrepreneurs and help spark opportunity, community building and philanthropy.

Their legacy continues today as new Entrepreneurship and Innovation programs at WSU enter the second year. The Entrepreneurship and Innovation programs, which will be held at the new Mike Ilitch School of Business building when it opens later this year, offer a 15-credit hour certificate to undergraduate and graduate students looking for immersion in the study of products, technology and social impact.

WSU professor and Entrepreneurship and Innovation programs director Dr. Jeffrey Stoltman credits the programs’ launch to the Ilitch family’s historic donation—one of the top 10 largest gifts made to a public business school—along with university leadership under WSU President M. Roy Wilson and entrepreneurship becoming increasingly popular, thanks in part to TV shows like “Shark Tank” and “The Profit.”

“The gift from Mike and Marian Ilitch put us over the top,” Stoltman said of the collective effort to establish the curriculum. “We knew entrepreneurship was a very necessary component that a business school should have and it was time that we got around to it.”

Stoltman’s research has probed a range of topics and has found that Detroit has historically relied upon the automotive industry for economic development rather than new, smaller start-ups. His aim is to guide students to that trend to help fuel the city’s growth.

True to its name, the new Entrepreneurship and Innovation programs won’t just offer traditional 3-credit hour courses to WSU Warriors; it will offer workshops and 1- and 2-credit hour courses that will also be available to guest students.

“There’s a transformational shift being brought about technology,” Stoltman said. “We’re breaking the mold in the next year or two.”

This winter, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation programs boasted a special section taught by industry practitioners, including Regina Ann Campbell and Paul Riser of TechTown, the entrepreneurial hub founded by WSU, General Motors and the Henry Ford Health System in 2000. Other academic entities at the university, including the College of Engineering and School of Medicine, also offered interdisciplinary courses that could be used toward the certificate. In fall 2018, the curriculum will offer a course in social impact investing that could attract people engaged in social entrepreneurship.

The new building for the Mike Ilitch School of Business, currently underway on Woodward Avenue and Temple Street will feature a pop-up incubator when it opens this spring. Stoltman said the school aims to attract and gain foot traffic from passerby for the business space and foster an entrepreneurship climate in Detroit.

The Entrepreneurship and Innovation programs are among other new certification options at the school, which include the Detroit Police Department’s Leadership Academy and the new program in Sport and Entertainment Management. Upon its debut, the new building will feature a corner café, a full trading floor and other modern amenities.

About The District Detroit

The District Detroit is one of the largest sports and entertainment developments in the country. Located in the heart of Detroit, this 50-block, mixed-use development led by the Ilitch organization unites eight world-class theaters, five neighborhoods and three professional sports venues in one vibrant, walkable destination for people who want to live, work and play in an exciting urban environment. Home to the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Pistons and Detroit Lions - The District Detroit represents the greatest density of professional sports teams in one downtown core in the country.

Current data from the University of Michigan demonstrates that The District Detroit will account for an economic impact of more than $2 billion by 2020 and create more than 20,000 construction and construction-related jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs.