Earn a degree and get a job — that was old-school career planning. Michigan State University urges students today to get an idea and start a company — maybe before the diploma.

A student business incubator and an entrepreneurship certificate program will help anchor MSU ENet, a new program connecting university and community resources into an innovation ecosystem for entrepreneurs.

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“It’s not just for students, but for anyone in the community,” said program director Bryan Ritchie, a professor in MSU’s James Madison College and co-director of the Michigan Center for Innovation and Economic Prosperity. “This program itself is entrepreneurial. We don’t have a new center –– we are linking existing centers, courses, faculty and students into a flat organizational structure and network, connecting MSU and community service providers and firms into a just-in-time access point.”

Undergraduates and non-student learners alike can enroll in a new course, ANR 491: “Venture Creation and the Innovative Mindset,” which will be highly interactive and tap instructors from several MSU colleges. Enrollees can earn a Certificate in Entrepreneurship with more coursework and, perhaps, entrepreneurial experience.

Students also now can seek funding up to $5,000 to take such experiential learning from idea to prototype, thanks in large measure to a $600,000 endowment from the Gerstacker Foundation.

“We’re looking to invest in students who have serious entrepreneurial ideals,” said associate provost Douglas Estry, dean for undergraduate education. “We have a commitment that includes both industry and faculty representatives who will look at proposals that come in and listen to students’ pitches.”

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A new business incubator in East Lansing’s Technology Innovation Center, The Hatch, will allow students to launch new ventures for their entrepreneurial capstone projects under the mentorship of ENet. The Hatch is a collaborative effort between the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, MSU and the city of East Lansing to provide incubation space to student entrepreneurs that is tightly connected to university and community services.

Entrepreneurs can tap ENet to access business development resources offered by MSU and community organizations, including the Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Eli Broad College of Business, LEAP and the MSU BioEconomy Network.

“These exciting initiatives are major components of MSU’s evolving entrepreneurship ecosystem, designed to create a comprehensive, integrated system of internal and community resources,” said Ian Gray, MSU vice president for research and graduate studies. “It will accelerate successful commercialization of MSU technologies, educate MSU students for successful entrepreneurial careers and partner with the entrepreneurial community to create a close exchange of ideas, resources and opportunities.”

For more information about ENet, visit http://entrepreneurship.msu.edu/ and follow it on Twitter at http://twitter.com/msuENet.

MSU ENet will kick off from 4-6 p.m. Aug. 19 at the East Lansing Technology Center, 325 E. Grand River Ave., above Barnes & Noble Booksellers. The center can be accessed from Grand River Avenue or the second level of the City Center I parking ramp. The event will be Webcast live at http://bit.ly/msuenetlaunch.

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