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Posted on Thu, Aug 27, 2009 : 7:39 a.m.

Thomas Zurbuchen: University of Michigan emphasizing 'entrepreneurial mindset'

By Nathan Bomey

The University of Michigan’s embrace of entrepreneurialism as its academic centerpiece and business connection driver is leading to a leadership transition.

Thomas Zurbuchen, founding director of U-M’s two-year-old Center for Entrepreneurship, is being promoted to associate dean for entrepreneurial programs at the College of Engineering. It’s a new position for the university.

The university has hired serial entrepreneur Doug Neal as the first full-time director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.

Zurbuchen will maintain oversight of the Center for Entrepreneurship, which has methodically integrated entrepreneurialism into academic programs and various business engagement activities. The CFE works collaboratively with the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Ross School of Business and various student organizations, including MPowered.


Zurbuchen said the university’s increasing emphasis on the importance of entrepreneurialism is reflective of the economic transition Michigan needs to embrace.

“This is a hugely aggressive stance relative to entrepreneurship,” he said. “What this will allow us to do is make entrepreneurship much more pervasive across the board, as opposed to just the Center for Entrepreneurship. 

"It’s much more about transforming all of our people to have a stronger emphasis on this entrepreneurial mindset - the ability to think, see opportunities, see issues, see needs and respond to those.”

Zurbuchen said he would become more engaged in economic development issues, including the university’s technology transfer office.

His promotion comes as the Center for Entrepreneurship’s major competition and event, “1,000 Pitches,” is taking shape for this fall. Student leaders are already forming plans for the event, which involves U-M students pitching entrepreneurial business ideas in a campus-wide competition.

University officials were surprised by the overwhelming response to last year’s competition, leading President Mary Sue Coleman to promote it in various public appearances, including at the Mackinac Policy Conference and state House testimony, as a highlight of the university’s entrepreneurial activity.

Neal said he envisions enhancing and expanding the CFE’s activities in his new role.

He expects to “put the pedal down and accelerate that in speed and intensity as we continue the programs and add new programs to accelerate entrepreneurship.”

Photo by Nathan Bomey: Doug Neal (left) and Thomas Zurbuchen are leading the University of Michigan College of Engineering's focus on entrepreneurialism.

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at, (734) 623-2587 or follow him on Twitter.