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Unique Business Partnership Gains Attention for Michigan Independents

Business is good. But you’re at a crossroads. The company that began with five people and a dream 41 years ago now employs 2,100 and sales are approaching $1 billion.

But the terrain is shifting. The family business now serves a global market. Executives who nurtured the company are ready to retire.

Change is inevitable, but where do you turn?

If you’re the Shape Corp., you tap the minds and business savvy of professors at Albion College, Hope College and Spring Arbor University.

In a unique marriage of the real world and academics, professors from the Michigan independent colleges helped chart a path for the next generation of the Novi design, engineering company.

Albion College Professors Dr. Vicki Baker and Joy Nakfoor, Hope College Professor Dr. Peter Boumgarden and Spring Arbor University Professor Dr. K. Caleb Chan worked closely with company officials to map a plan for future leadership, as well as develop a global leadership development program.

It was a good fit. The faculty had deep, real-world business experience, running entrepreneurial ventures and consulting Fortune 500 companies.

As natural as it seems, the partnership is so unusual it will be featured and celebrated in the September/October issue of Academe, a publication of the American Association of University Professors.

“While we each bring a unique, but complementary skill set to the table, we all share a passion for solving problems and drawing on what we do best—instilling the core values of the liberal arts in our students, believing them to be relevant to the complexity of the modern business world,” Professors Baker and Boumgarden wrote in a paper about the experiment.

That sort of thinking is typical at Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities, where world-renowned faculty encourages taking a different approach to problems — and learning.

While other universities are hemmed in by orthodox views on where business school ends and practical business begins, Michigan independents chart a new path. It’s just one of many examples that separates the independents and makes them shine.

Academically rigorous, the schools offer small class sizes. Their faculty are experts in their field and forge lifetime bonds with students who value communities over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.