Urban entrepreneurs

Urban Entrepreneurship course

As part of the Urban Entrepreneurship course, UM-Dearborn students visit small businesses across Detroit, including Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company. Photo by Roxi Laslau.

Roxi Laslau’s view of Detroit was fairly sheltered.

The University of Michigan-Dearborn junior rarely visited Detroit and the information she gathered about the Motor City was often negative. Crime and unemployment overshadowed news about the city’s entrepreneurial progress.

But over the past four weeks, Laslau’s perspective on Detroit has taken a positive spin. She credits UM-Dearborn’s Urban Entrepreneurship course for her renewed appreciation for Detroit.

“I’m just continuously surprised,” said Laslau, a digital marketing major.

The course, which focuses on doing business in Detroit, is being offered this semester as part of the College of Business’ Betty F. Elliott Initiative for Academic Excellence. The goal of the Elliott Initiative is to enhance academic excellence by fostering new curricula, lectures and research, while also building strategic engagement opportunities with the business community.

Laslau and about 25 other students have learned about the environmental ecosystem of metropolitan Detroit by exploring how the city’s historical, economic, social and cultural factors influence business.

“This is not your normal business plan class where you need to come because you’ve got a business idea and you want to grow a business yourself,” said Joy Beatty, associate professor of organizational behavior. “This is for students who want to make a difference in Detroit.”

Beatty is one of five UM-Dearborn faculty members who are teaching the course this semester – along with Tim Davis and Crystal Scott from the College of Business, as well as Bruce Pietrykowski and Liz Rohan from the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters.

The course especially appealed to Laslau because it’s only being offered this semester.

“I don’t think I could compare it to a college course,” said Laslau, who plans to visit Detroit more often after taking the class. “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Beatty hopes the course will encourage her students to become more involved with small business in Detroit, which could further boost the local economy.

“A lot of our students stay here and we’re excited when they want to stay here because we think they can make a difference with businesses in the community,” Beatty said. “And so having a shared conversation going on in the business world just sets them up to participate going forward.”

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