Successful alumnus returns to Syracuse University as entrepreneur-in-residence

 By Eileen Jevis

March 7, 2016

When entrepreneur Michael Gursha ’10 was looking for his next opportunity, he returned to his alma mater, Syracuse University, to share his business expertise with Newhouse students while taking time for self-reflection. Gursha joined the Newhouse School in September as its first entrepreneur-in-residence.

As an entrepreneur-in-residence, Gursha provides guidance to students who are focused on building new companies or exploring how to get involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Gursha works with students one on one or in groups during his office hours, helping them solve problems as they pursue their ideas. At Newhouse and Syracuse as a whole there is a tremendous growth in the desire to build companies and pursue entrepreneurship, so Gursha has been able to bring his expertise to the school to add a different perspective.

“Problem solving is the essence of entrepreneurship and is an essential aspect of anything you do in life,” says Gursha. “It’s very important as you go out into the world to understand how to think differently. Being able to create value for any organization you may be working for is essential in today’s world.”

His background as an entrepreneur, investor and executive allows Gursha to bring additional knowledge and practical experience to the students he mentors. But Gursha says he’s learning as much from the students as they are from him. “In terms of technology, new ideas and what is going on in the world, I’m acquiring a totally new perspective,” he says. “I’m also thrilled to be able to take advantage of every aspect of college life—conversations with various experts in their fields, the diverse lineup of speakers and the ability to audit courses. The coolest thing about auditing classes is that there aren’t many times in your life when you can pick up a course catalog and choose any course that interests you.” Gursha has audited courses in neuroscience, philosophy and popular culture.

While taking advantage of the opportunities at SU, Gursha says that he’s helping students get to where they need to go. Erin Miller is a senior at Newhouse majoring in advertising. Gursha has been her mentor for two years. “Michael is an active advisor and mentor to many of the young entrepreneurs that I work with through Newhouse’s Center for Digital Entrepreneurship,” says Miller. “He taught me how to think outside the box. He and I tag team with business consultations. I find students building amazing businesses on campus, and I send them to Michael so he can help them with advice and solid next steps.”

Miller says that Gursha believes in the importance of self-purpose and tells students that they need to focus on their personal mission and strengths and apply them to their ventures and their futures.

Alec Ellin, a senior at the Newhouse School, says that Gursha helped guide him in his entrepreneurial endeavors for the past year. “I think having someone like Mike around is essential for building a startup mentality at Newhouse,” says Ellin. “We have so many talented students across many fields, but most of our classes push us to work for the few conglomerates rather than pursuing our own ambitions,” he says.

Gursha has been co-teaching with Sean Branagan, director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the Newhouse School. “The entrepreneur-in-residence program creates an opportunity for SU to bring experts in their fields to campus to audit classes and work with students, which provides the entrepreneur with new perspective and ideas,” says Branagan. “At the same time, it provides faculty, staff and students with experts who can contribute their knowledge and share experiences.”

The entrepreneur-in-residence program is a partnership between the Newhouse School and University College. Newhouse Dean Lorraine Branham says that offering the program has been her goal since she created the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship five years ago. “I wanted our students to have hands-on mentorship from active entrepreneurs,” she says. “I was thrilled that our first entrepreneur-in-residence ended up being an alumnus. Michael’s background and experience makes him ideally suited for this role and he has served as a wonderful role model for our students.”

“The experience has been very rewarding,” says Gursha. “It has allowed me to take the necessary time to evaluate my next steps while at the same time giving me the opportunity to give back to the University I love.”

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