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Innovation is a Spartan State of Mind

For Michigan State University Spartans, entrepreneurship is more than a skill or discipline—it’s a mindset. It’s a way of thinking and working that opens doors, creates connections and accelerates innovation across disciplines.

Spartan innovators imagine a better world, then work to make it a reality. MSU supports them by connecting them to experienced business leaders and start-up funding opportunities and by cultivating university-wide entrepreneurship programs and community collaborations.

Spartan undergraduates in all areas of study—from business to engineering to jazz studies—can pursue a minor in entrepreneurship, a vital foundation that prepares them for unconventional careers in an ever-changing professional landscape.

“Given the changing nature of work, the most successful people will be the ones who are most adaptable,” says Neil Kane, director of Undergraduate Entrepreneurship. “The lasting advantage for a student is to think like an entrepreneur—whether they choose to start their own business, work for an established company or create social change.”

Faculty researchers turn to the MSU Innovation Center to translate scientific discoveries into products and launch successful Michigan businesses that benefit society and spur economic growth.

MSU’s culture of innovation is racking up results: This year has seen record numbers of MSU startups and commercial agreements with companies.

Meet some of the entrepreneurial-minded faculty and students behind MSU’s success.

“The entrepreneurship program kind of 
hooked me in on the whole business side 
and allowed me to 
figure Land Grant 
Goods out.”

Alex Marx, junior

Environmental studies and sustainability major, entrepreneurship and innovation minor

Alex Marx was drawn to MSU for its Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment program. The interdisciplinary living-learning program focuses on sustainability and environmental stewardship. After pursuing a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation, he co-founded Land Grant Goods, an herbal tea start-up completely run by MSU students, with fellow student Bethany Kogut.

"This is why we have a record number of commercial agreements with companies and a record number of start-ups this year."

Richard Chylla

Executive director, MSU Technologies

Richard Chylla, executive director of MSU Technologies, joined MSU in 2012, after more than 20 years in the specialty chemical industry. Today, he is responsible for all strategic and operational issues related to managing the university’s diverse intellectual property portfolio, including identifying and protecting intellectual property, marketing and negotiating technology transfer opportunities with industry and helping to identify innovations with the potential to form start-up companies.

“The difference was that they never made me feel any gender difference. That in 
itself removed all the barriers that we usually face as 
women to move up 
career-wise.”

Gemma Reguera

Associate professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Gemma Reguera is an associate professor who has discovered methods for using microbes to clean up nuclear waste sites. She also is co-founder and chief scientific officer of BioElectrica, a company committed to advancing waste-to-energy technologies. Reguera credits the MSU Innovation Center with providing tools that not only supported her patented technologies but also her entrepreneurial spirit.

“I was attracted 
to be a professor at Michigan State because of the structure, the dimension, the colleagues and the supporting structures like the Innovation Center.”

Bruno Basso

University Foundation Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Bruno Basso, University Foundation Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, co-founded the start-up CiBo Technologies. Cibo means “food” in Italian. Understanding agricultural systems and reducing environmental footprints is the driving force behind the technologies CiBo develops and the services provided. Basso says the MSU Innovation Center helped make CiBo Technologies possible because it put him in close contact with the venture capital world.

“I’ve always just 
wanted to do something that was my own, so entrepreneurship kind 
of gives you that opportunity to make 
the impact that you want.”

Elizabeth Slifkin, junior

Applied engineering sciences major, entrepreneurship and innovation minor

Elizabeth Slifkin came to MSU because of the entrepreneurial programming offered. A junior in applied engineering sciences with a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation, she started the student group OptimizeMSU at the beginning of this semester. The organization is focused on social innovation and looks to apply the entrepreneurial mindset to social problems.

“As a musician, I 
think it’s important you have some form of entrepreneurship skills because you’re really 
on your own when you get in the industry.”

Brandon Rose, sophomore

Jazz studies major, entrepreneurship and innovation minor

Jazz studies sophomore and bass player Brandon Rose already has launched his first single—on his own—called “Happy Days.” He credits his success so far due to the support he’s received from MSU professors and a freshman seminar geared toward exploring creative ways musicians can make it in the music industry. He and fellow music majors also can tap into initiatives like Running Start, a program within the College of Music that prepares students for life as working musicians in the 21st century.

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