The University of Michigan's Ross
School of Business today unveiled details of its annual Impact
Challenge, one of the most ambitious and immersive leadership
development programs of its kind for business school students. Organized
by the Ross Leadership Initiative (RLI), the 2014 Impact Challenge will
focus the energy, creativity, and experience of business school students
to develop, launch, and fund a business within a week's time. Each year
the Impact Challenge is directed at making a positive difference in the
Detroit community and as such, the new start-up venture will be focused
on increasing the odds that Detroit-area children grow up to become
The Impact Challenge, a fast-paced, week-long program for Michigan Ross
Full-Time MBA students, has been expanded this year to also engage
Weekend/Evening MBA, Global MBA, Master of Management, and BBA students.
General Motors is sponsoring this year's Challenge with a $50,000
investment in the educational experience. Local partner organizations
include the Detroit Parent Network and Detroit TechTown. The experience
is an intensive, action-based learning program for students and core to
the Michigan Ross mission to develop leaders who make a positive
difference in the world.
"We fundamentally believe that business can be a force for positive
change in the world, and the Impact Challenge is an embodiment of this
belief," said Scott DeRue, associate dean and faculty director of the
Ross Leadership Initiative. "This year's challenge will create a lasting
impact for Detroit youth and our students at Ross. There is so much
positive momentum around Detroit's start-up culture that we wanted to do
our part to support area children to become successful entrepreneurs.
Starting a business from scratch is an ambitious goal for anyone, but
our students have the knowledge and passion to bring this to life and
will experience first-hand the power of business to make a positive
The 450 first-year MBAs will work in six teams to engage community
leaders, business owners, parents, and youth in five neighborhoods to
generate a set of new venture concepts. Workshops on design thinking and
feedback from key stakeholders will help students develop their venture
concept, business plan, and pitch. The MBAs will be building on the
insights and recommendations developed earlier in the year by Ross'
Weekend/Evening and Global MBAs and Master of Management students. In
the end, approximately 1,500 Ross students will have been a part of the
venture creation process.
On Thursday, Aug. 28, each team will pitch concepts to a panel of
judges. The judges will select one concept for launch, based on the
business venture's potential impact, strategy and long-term viability,
both in terms of financial feasibility and sustainability.
The following day, 500 first-year BBA students will then have mere hours
to complete their phase of the challenge: designing and launching a
Kickstarter campaign to raise seed capital to support the venture, which
will be complemented by funding from corporate partners. From there,
teams of students will take the winning idea and work over the next
eight months to launch the venture, with guidance from Ross faculty and
partners such as Detroit's TechTown.
"Working closely with Michigan Ross to design this year's Impact
Challenge and then bring it to our SWOT City Detroit neighborhoods is an
incredible opportunity," said Leslie Lynn Smith, president and CEO,
TechTown Detroit. "Every day, we work to transform these underserved
neighborhoods into vibrant and dense communities-places where kids are
inspired and supported, not consumed by a chronic sense of hopelessness.
We take seriously our obligation to carry economic and social justice to
our most disconnected communities-our neighbors-and we are deeply
grateful for Ross' shared commitment and partnership. It's not every day
that such a respected institution takes the time to really dig deep,
engage and support the future of our neighborhood children. We have no
doubt that the winning venture will make a significant impact and we
commit to transitioning it from concept to reality."
For more than 20 years, Ross has hosted community service projects in
Detroit as part of the onboarding of new students and 2014 marks the
fourth year that has come in the form of the Impact Challenge. In
previous years, the Challenge has raised more than $65,000 for the
Make-A-Wish Foundation; engaged organizations to tackle Detroit's most
pressing social problems; and most recently, provided a large-scale back
to school fair featuring products, services and learning activities
to help more than 3,000 kids and parents get a positive start to the
"On day one of the Challenge, it's safe to say we were all intimidated
by the scope of our task--this would be a huge undertaking for any group
in four days, much less a group of almost strangers. We were immediately
forced to rely on one another, to step up and take on leadership
positions, to innovate and challenge the status quo, and to meet
aggressive deadlines," said Elizabeth Ferguson, MBA '15 who participated
in the 2013 Challenge. "Despite the intensity of the Challenge and the
inter-section competition, it was impossible to lose sight of the
broader context of what we were doing. We became deeply invested in the
stories and concerns we heard, the problems we hoped to fix, and the
community we hoped to benefit. The Challenge certainly opened my eyes to
what I was capable of and what my section could accomplish together, but
more importantly we saw the impact of our efforts on thousands of
Detroit kids. It drove home that our Ross education would prepare us to
be engaged citizens of the world as well as exemplary business people."
Theresa Mitchell, director of Project Graduation at Detroit Parent
Network, a partner organization for this and last year's Impact
Challenge, said, "It was amazing to watch the Ross students transform
the fair from idea into reality in just a matter of days. They injected
a level of energy and passion that helped ensure children in Detroit
would start the school year strong and set their sights high. Years from
now several attendees may go to college as a direct result of what they
saw and learned at the fair. We're fortunate to have the Impact
Challenge play a role in transforming our communities for the better."
Follow all of the Impact Challenge action on Twitter and Instagram using
the tag #RossImpact
or learn more at http://michiganross.umich.edu/programs/rli/impact-challenge.
About the Stephen M. Ross School of Business
M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan is a
vibrant and distinctive learning community grounded in the principle
that business can be an extraordinary vehicle for positive change in
today's dynamic global economy. The Ross School of Business mission is
to develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world. Through
thought and action, members of the Ross community drive change and
innovation that improves business and society.
Ross is consistently ranked among the world's leading business schools.
Academic degree programs include the BBA, MBA, Part-time MBA (Evening
and Weekend formats), Executive MBA, Global MBA, Master of Accounting,
Master of Supply Chain Management, Master of Management, and PhD. In
addition, the school delivers open-enrollment and custom executive
education programs targeting general management, leadership development,
and strategic human resource management.
Note to media: Watch the results of 2013 Michigan Ross Impact Challenge
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