Entrepreneurship and Innovation at MSU

Campus-wide entrepreneurial initiative connects with College of Music.

The trend toward following an entrepreneurial career path can be summed up in a single statistic: 40 percent.

That figure, says Neil Kane, is one he sees over and over in reference to the percent of current high school seniors who will spend at least part of their careers self-employed after they graduate college in a few years.

As MSU’s first director of undergraduate entrepreneurship, Kane will oversee the continued development of a campus-wide culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. His charge includes creating a unified strategy, and introducing new programs, courses, activities, and resources that lead to a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation. Kane will also work closely with existing entrepreneurial efforts across campus as he shapes MSU’s initiative, including those in nearly 20 MSU Colleges like the College of Music

“My thesis is very simple,” Kane says. “Just about any student in any discipline will benefit from the skills they develop in an entrepreneurial curriculum. And for today’s music students, you have to know how to market and manage yourself like you would a business.”

College of Music Alumna Cynthia Kay helps students identify opportunities for business in the Lansing area.
MSU professors Derek Polischuk and Richard Fracker lead a workshop on recruiting students for a private teaching studio.
Members of the DSO string section discuss best practices for winning auditions.

Music: Off to a Running Start

Since 2012, the College of Music has worked to advance programs and the curriculum that prepares students for careers as 21st century musicians. The Running Start program offers workshops, courses, and career coaching; community engagement and performance opportunities; and the chance to bring entrepreneurial concepts to life through an annual competition supported by the MSU Federal Credit Union.

Christine Beamer, director of Career Services and Music Entrepreneurship in the College of Music, is committed to equipping music students with the entrepreneurial skills and mindset they’ll need to carve out musical careers. The discipline, study, and performance of music, she says, presents unique challenges for entrepreneurship, particularly since the product or service a student “sells” is typically an experience or something intangible.

“Musicians need to constantly think in innovative ways to engage audiences,” she says. “That innovation is essential for the arts to continue to be a force for positive change in our society.”

Beamer says the College’s Running Start program aligns with Kane’s concept of entrepreneurship at MSU and provides an avenue for student entrepreneurship in the performing arts as the University’s entrepreneurial initiative gets under way. The program, too, can help cultivate cross-departmental collaborations and “social entrepreneurship”—or finding new ways to address social problems and contribute to the greater good.

“The arts bring something unique to the table as a non-traditional sector of entrepreneurship,” concurs Mark Sullivan, associate professor of composition. “The university-wide entrepreneurial effort presents tremendous opportunity for arts-based projects that support community initiatives or build awareness of social issues.”

Sullivan was among more than 50 MSU faculty involved in formulating recommendations for MSU’s new entrepreneurial initiative—which included Kane’s appointment. Those recommendations also included enabling arts-based students to leverage university-wide entrepreneurial resources and add business-minded credentials to their portfolio and transcript.

“A lot of what Neil is doing is not about studying entrepreneurship, it’s about doing it,” says Sullivan. “That’s crucial. We’re making sure students get opportunities related to entrepreneurship before they enter the workforce—experiences that will make them better prepared to face the cultural and economic challenges confronting the arts.”

The College of Music is working to integrate aspects of the Running Start program with the university-wide entrepreneurial initiative. Recent entrepreneurial activities within the College of Music include piloting the new “Practical Foundations for Success” course, submitting the “Business of Music” course for inclusion into the University-wide entrepreneurship curriculum, and expanding the annual Running Start Competition to fund up to three student projects.  Students can also participate in a robust calendar of workshops facilitated by alumni, guest artists, or faculty focused on career building, arts innovation, and essential skills for performers. For more information about entrepreneurship at the College of Music, visit Running Start.

Established in 2013, the Career Builder Endowment, made possible by Spartan alumni John (Jack) and Dortha (Dottie) Withrow, has enabled the College’s Running Start program to create engaging activities and curriculum focused on building vibrant music careers.

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