UM-Flint's Hagerman Center Receives USASBE's 2024 Excellence Award

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The USASBE award being presented to Mark Simon
UM-Flint's Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has earned the 2024 Excellence in Co-Curricular Innovation Award from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

One year after being named one of only four finalists, the University of Michigan-Flint's Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has earned the 2024 Excellence in Co-Curricular Innovation Award from the United States 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.

Founded in 1981 and with more than 700 members, USASBE is the world's largest organization devoted to collegiate-level entrepreneurship education, making this one of the most prestigious awards a university can receive.

USASBE recognizes bold and innovative programs making an impact in the field of entrepreneurship education. The award honors colleges and universities with comprehensive, creative, high-quality, sustainable and impactful co-curricular programs in entrepreneurship education.

Ignite Innovation: A Showcase of Excellence

The Hagerman Center's commitment to transforming the futures of UM-Flint students is evident in its programs and impressive success stories.


"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 highlights the exemplary involvement of UM-Flint students, faculty, and staff in co-curricular programs under the umbrella name Ignite Innovation, the initiatives of which contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the university and community through Faculty Innovation Awards, Student Scholarships, Zillion Solutions Competition, Summer Entrepreneurship Institute, and Interdisciplinary Speaker Series.

Participation in center activities has gained momentum throughout the university as last year, 595 students, including 82 from area high schools, submitted more than 630 ideas to Zillion Solutions. UM-Flint's faculty members played a pivotal role as more than 40 actively influenced their students' decision to enter the competition.

Brian Blume

"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

Established in 2015 with a gift from Phil Hagerman, the Hagerman Center offers an easy-to-enter innovation competition for students of all majors called Zillion Solutions, a summer program for high school students, faculty innovation awards, a speaker series and student scholarships.

 Shortly after the center's founding, UM-Flint's School of Management introduced the entrepreneurship & innovation management major to further equip students with the skills to be successful entrepreneurs and innovative leaders in existing organizations.

According to Simon, the success of the Hagerman Center lies in the lasting impact it has on its participants. "Approximately 85% of Ignite Innovation participants are in non-business majors, breaking the stereotype that entrepreneurship is limited to business students," he said. "Based on a survey of participants, within two years of engaging with the programs, more than 50% of students take their entrepreneurial journey to the next level. Whether entering other entrepreneurship competitions, refining their ideas, or acquiring assets for implementation, the Hagerman Center's influence extends far beyond our campus. More than 10% of participants start their ventures, turning their ideas into reality."

One such example is UM-Flint Alumnus, class of 22, Percivierre Whitmore. His participation in multiple Ignite Innovation activities prompted him to start "Share the Keys," an organization that has enhanced the lives of hundreds of teens in the Flint area by teaching them about entrepreneurship and providing mentors. Through its innovative 12-week educational program, young people learn how to turn dreams into realities.

"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 Hagerman, The 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."

"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.

Robb King is the director of marketing and communications at UM-Flint. He can be reached at [email protected].