A Force for Transformation
At the Carlson School, we challenge our students to learn by doing, to wrestle with real dilemmas for clients big and small, to leave the classroom and the country to explore our globally connected business world.
The Carlson School has long been a pioneer among business schools in creating real-world opportunities for students to learn in the workplace, and we continue to forge dynamic partnerships with Minnesota businesses to deliver hands-on learning experiences. We encourage and support emerging entrepreneurs who will launch startups in new industries. And, as the first business school to require an international experience, we foster a global mindset in our students.
Support of experiential learning creates opportunities for students to enrich their educations, discover and pursue their passions, and dig into local and global challenges.
As one of the largest companies in the state of Minnesota and a major player in the food and agriculture space, General Mills has plenty of expertise among its workforce, and the scale to support new, big ideas. The company has always valued collaborative partnerships in solving challenges in the food and agriculture industry.
“At General Mills, we’re proud to be part of the fabric of a thriving community driving innovation and change in the food and ag industry,” says Pete Speranza, New Business Development Leader for 301 INC, General Mills’ venture capital unit. “With our size, we can help enable connections between experts and entrepreneurs, while highlighting and supporting the great work that is happening in Minnesota and beyond.”
Seeing the importance of supporting opportunity, innovation, and entrepreneurship in their industry, and understanding the rich history of agriculture in the state of Minnesota, it was natural that General Mills would seek partnership with the University of Minnesota, the state’s flagship institution and a regional leader in both business and agriculture education.
With the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, General Mills helped to launch Grow North, which works to support and accelerate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in food and agriculture in Minnesota. Grow North leads a variety of education and connectivity programming, and launched Food Ag Ideas Week, with over 1000 attendees from across the country and 29 partners in October 2019. Through Grow North, and General Mills’ support of related entrepreneurial activity through MN Cup, the company has taken a leadership position in driving innovative new ideas and programs.
“Perhaps unknown to many, Minnesota has been at the center of food and agriculture since the 1800s,” says Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer at General Mills. “Supporting Grow North is a unique way for General Mills to showcase our roots and our leadership, but more importantly to amplify the collective impact we can have as a state on the role of innovation in our food system.”
“General Mills’ funding and active leadership through Grown North and MN Cup has helped to make Minnesota a major player in the Food Ag startup space,” says Lauren Pradhan, Founding Managing Director of Grow North. She says General Mills has been a champion, “driving innovation and inviting others in. They’ve been able to use the scale of a large company to help others scale up, and see real impact.”Supporting Grow North is a unique way for General Mills to showcase our roots and our leadership, but more importantly to amplify the collective impact we can have as a state on the role of innovation in our food system.
For years, Mike Arbeiter has mentored aspiring entrepreneurs at the Carlson School’s Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship. Now, he hopes to give back in a different way that will help shape the center for years to come.
Arbeiter has made an estate gift to the Holmes Center, allowing the transformational real-world experiences provided by the center to continue well into the future.
“As you grow older and your hair turns a little grey, you reflect and wonder what the younger generations will aspire to moving forward. You almost have a minor fear of what that’s going to be like,” Arbeiter says. “But for me, over the years I’ve enjoyed seeing a real commitment of Carlson School students who have this sense of conquering the world. Nothing is going to hold them back, they are ready, willing and prepared to meet, not only today’s needs, but tomorrow’s needs as well.”
Arbeiter is currently the President and CEO of Fisher + Baker; a modern luxury clothing company that designs and sells functional menswear. The company constructs and creates classic clothing that has a high-tech design presence. For instance, its parka includes pockets that are well insulated so items, like smartphones, don’t freeze in winter’s cold weather.
“Our clothing is timeless, purposeful, and functional,” he says. “We like to say ‘We’re not trendy. We’re on trend.’ ”
Before joining the company, Arbeiter has been involved in a number of other business ventures. From the early beginning, he was an executive with Rollerblade and ultimately the operator of the company.
It was that entrepreneurial spirit that made John Stavig, professional director of the Holmes Center, to invite Arbeiter to mentor Carlson School students. In his role as Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Arbeiter provides direction to students; everything from sales and marketing strategy to financial projections and capital structure.
When working with Carlson School students, he sees a can-do attitude and a positive sense of the world. That’s led him to hire several graduates to join his companies, including one of his newest employees at Fisher + Baker.
This time spent with students prompted Arbeiter, who doesn’t have children, to give this estate gift.
“Having had this unique experience to work with these committed, insightful, and knowledgeable young people, I see that our future is safe and bright. I felt that this was my pathway for me to do something beyond sharing my experiences,” he says. “I looked at this and thought, ‘here it is’ an opportunity to do something more. My hope is that my financial gift offers the channel for future students to aspire and create a better world through innovation and experiences.”Having had this unique experience to work with these committed, insightful, and knowledgeable young people, I see that our future is safe and bright. I felt that this was my pathway for me to do something beyond sharing my experiences.
Throughout her career, Judy Corson wanted to see more women get involved in business, and that desire has been with her in every step throughout her business career.
Recently, she’s been able to inspire a whole new generation of female entrepreneurs through the Women Entrepreneurs (WE) program.
An endowment from Corson helped establish WE at the Carlson School in 2015. WE is focused on supporting scalable, women-led startups in Minnesota, with the goal of encouraging more women entrepreneurs to develop big ideas, gain access to resources, and ultimately raise capital or establish key partnerships to grow their businesses and create jobs.
The program creates a variety of events and programming that aim to inspire more women to pursue ambitious entrepreneurial efforts. Since its founding in 2015, WE has hosted nearly 30 different events.
“It’s so important that we grow a pipeline of women who can be the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders,” Corson says.
Corson had a successful business career of her own. She left her position at Pillsbury in 1974 to co-found Custom Research Inc., a national marketing research firm. She and her business partners sold the company in 1999. As the first woman named to the board of directors of two Fortune 500 companies, she received the University’s Outstanding Achievement Award and was inducted into the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame in 2014.
After her career, Corson felt it was time to give back. She was the benefactor of WE and the chair of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship.
“I wanted to pass along the things that I know so other women can have the background and skill to hopefully start developing their own careers and their own businesses,” she says. “When you see other people accomplish their goals, it makes you feel really good about giving back.”
WE and the support it lends to aspiring female business leaders is near to her heart. Through two annual conferences, quarterly networking events, student fellowships and awards, and other community events, WE is inspiring, educating, and connecting women with essential resources.
“I love to be involved in helping people achieve their goals,” she says. “It’s so vital for women to get the opportunities to start and grow their own business.”
Women, Corson says, oftentimes run into more difficulties when starting a business than men do. They can struggle to receive funding for their ideas and to find mentors who will help them along the way. The hope is that through connections made at the Carlson School, more women will be able to overcome those challenges.
“Our hope is that women will find their role models and potential mentors, who they can meet with as they start their own business,” she says. “This is so critical to women in the early stages of their career.”Our hope is that women will find their role models and potential mentors, who they can meet with as they start their own business. This is so critical to women in the early stages of their career.