Companies are continually looking for creative ways to engage top college students and find resources to solve problems that constrain their business. At the same time, there is a concerted emphasis by schools and colleges to provide students with an opportunity for hands-on learning.

Sounds like an easy pairing, doesn’t it?

Students presenting at a Shinola event, November 21, 2017

That’s what they thought at the Ross Business School a couple of years ago. A transformative conversation between Scott DeRue , Edward J. Frey Dean of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and Mike Barger, Professor of Business Administration and Executive Director, Office of Strategy and Academic Innovation laid the foundation for a new program called the Living Business Leadership Experience (LBLE).

LBLE pairs a company with a team of students to establish and run real, profitable enterprises. The goal of the program is to develop a portfolio of student-run businesses where, deeply embedded in every aspect of each living business, is a personalized and engaging learning experience with real context, real decision-making, real products and services, and a responsibility to demonstrate real leadership.

For companies that participate, this is a chance to pursue a new business venture, ,launch a new product or service, or experiment with opportunities for future growth, all while mentoring the workforce of tomorrow. It’s also a chance to get in front of some of the brightest business students in the country – a very talented potential pool of future employees.

Dean DeRue shares, “Learning by doing prepares students for the challenges of their careers by developing their abilities to think independently, function with limited data, manage ambiguity, collaborate effectively, and continually grow from their experiences. Developing these abilities is the principal objective of experiential learning and it forms the core of our academic philosophy at Michigan Ross.”

For business students in today’s academic and economic environment, those experiences are increasingly critical.

Mike Barger adds, “”It’s (LBLE) not having students memorize the playbook and then execute it. Instead, this is an experience in dealing with uncertainty and figuring out how to move the team on the right path forward.

The program just started its third term, adding 1-3 new companies each semester. The current portfolio of companies was built through existing Michigan Ross partnerships and word of mouth recommendations, but LBLE is actively pursuing a broader, more diverse portfolio of companies for upcoming semesters. Companies in the fintech, health, or medtech space are of particular interest to the LBLE program and Michigan Ross students. Companies currently participating include Ford Motor Company, the NRP Group, Shinola, Warmilu, Daily Fuel, Michigan Academy for the Development of Entrepreneurs, and Michigan Business Education Navigator.

LBLE is a huge win for students who participate as well. “Working for a real business has brought up the challenges and rewards I am used to only reading about in cases. While the work is more demanding and complex, I enjoy being part of the results and having an experience to prepare me for my career,” comments Elyse Hovanesian, BBA’18.

For more information, visit the LBLE website or contact Ross-LBLE@umich.edu or 734-615-2096.