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Flint Local NewsUM-Flint's Hagerman Center receives top honor for entrepreneurial innovation

UM-Flint’s Hagerman Center receives top honor for entrepreneurial innovation

Flint, Michigan – A year after making it to the top four, the University of Michigan-Flint’s Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has won the 2024 Excellence in Co-Curricular Innovation Award from the US Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

“We’re so proud to receive this award from one of the most prestigious entrepreneurship organizations in the world. We feel gratified to see the center honored. We hope it shows other universities, even those which are relatively small with relatively new entrepreneurship programs, what they can accomplish within a short time!” said Mark Simon, Hagerman Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and director of the center.

The US Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, started in 1981 and now with over 700 members, is the biggest group focused on teaching entrepreneurship at colleges. Winning an award from them is a huge deal.

They look for programs that are new, bold, and make a real difference in teaching entrepreneurship. The award goes to schools that offer full, original, high-quality, lasting, and effective programs outside the regular classes.

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Ignite Innovation: A Showcase of Excellence

The work of the Hagerman Center in helping University of Michigan-Flint students achieve their dreams is shown through its programs and the great things its students have done.

“Our commitment to entrepreneurial education extends to every corner of our community,” said Simon. “Empowering students studying everything from nursing to English to make their ideas a reality is extremely rewarding and a testament to the importance of entrepreneurial thinking in every discipline. To be a finalist for this award is truly exciting and reflects the impact of programming offered by the Hagerman Center.”

The USASBE award recognizes the outstanding involvement of UM-Flint’s students, teachers, and staff in extra activities through Ignite Innovation. These efforts help grow the entrepreneurial spirit at the university and in the community. They include awards for faculty innovation, scholarships for students, the Zillion Solutions contest, a Summer Entrepreneurship Institute, and talks from various fields.

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More and more people at the university are joining in these activities. Last year, 595 students, with 82 from local high schools, came up with over 630 ideas for the Zillion Solutions challenge. UM-Flint’s teachers were key, with over 40 helping students decide to take part.

“One distinctive aspect of the Hagerman Center’s approach is that it involves each academic unit. For example, faculty members from every discipline receive innovation grants, encouraging a diverse range of perspectives and ideas,” said Brian Blume, associate director of the Hagerman Center. “This cross-disciplinary collaboration enriches the entrepreneurial landscape at UM-Flint, fostering an environment where innovation knows no boundaries.”

The Hagerman Center’s Impact

In 2015, thanks to Phil Hagerman’s donation, the Hagerman Center was set up. It offers a competition named Zillion Solutions that all students can join, a summer initiative for high schoolers, awards for faculty innovations, a series of talks, and scholarships for students.

Not long after the center started, UM-Flint’s School of Management launched a major in entrepreneurship and innovation management. This major aims to give students the tools they need to become successful entrepreneurs or innovative leaders within companies.

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Simon believes the Hagerman Center’s true value is seen in the effect it has on those who take part. “About 85% of those who join Ignite Innovation are studying subjects outside of business, which challenges the idea that only business students can be entrepreneurs,” he explained. “A survey showed that within two years of getting involved, over half the students advance their entrepreneurial efforts. They might enter more contests, improve their ideas, or get what they need to start their projects. The center’s impact reaches well beyond our campus, with over 10% of the participants launching their own projects.”

Percivierre Whitmore, who graduated from UM-Flint in 2022, is a great example. After joining several Ignite Innovation events, he founded “Share the Keys.” This initiative has made a big difference for many teens in Flint by teaching them about entrepreneurship and matching them with mentors. Its 12-week educational program helps young people learn to make their ideas come to life.

“While I have been incredibly impressed by the number of people who have participated in Ignite Innovation, I have been blown away by the way the program has been a catalyst to institutionalize innovation within the university’s fabric,” Simon said. “So many faculty now have students examine how innovation relates to their studies, start major assignments by having students think of an innovative idea, and even introduce discipline-related innovation courses. I think the center has played a significant role in enhancing our culture.”

Supporting Entrepreneurial Dreams

“Being named the 2024 USABE award winner is not a standalone achievement; it serves as a testament to the continuous and impactful support from Phil HagermanThe Mott Foundation, and alumnus Steve Whitener,” said Simon. “Their investment reflects a shared vision for cultivating innovation, creativity and transformative educational experiences within the entrepreneurial landscape of UM-Flint and the Flint community.”

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“The influence of the center’s benefactors extends beyond financial contributions; they help shape the program, attend events, present to students, mentor budding entrepreneurs, and inspire students. They have improved countless lives. The recognition showcases the collective dedication of the university, the center, and its supporters in shaping the future of entrepreneurship education.”

To learn more about the Hagerman Center, view the video that was prepared as part of the school’s award nomination here or visit its webpage.