Local entrepreneur named Honors College chair

By Austin Metz | 7/1/12 11:11pm

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Courtesy / about.me
Bill Holsinger-Robinson

by Courtesy photo / Lanthorn

The Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University has announced it will be hiring local entrepreneur Bill Holsinger-Robinson as chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the university.

“He is one of the most foreword thinking entrepreneurs from the business and social entrepreneurship side and is at the forefront of thinking,” said Jeff Chamberlain, director of the Honors College. “He will become the great connector for students with innovative groups in Grand Rapids that will be productive and help the students create wealth while doing good things for the community.”

The chair position will be a two-year position and while at the school, Chamberlain said Holsinger-Robinson would teach a class a semester and will also be working with smaller groups, individual students and will lead workshops at the school. He will start at the position beginning on July 2.

Although now at GVSU, the path to the Grand Rapids area was somewhat unlikely for Holsinger-Robinson.

Born in Pittsburg, Pa., Holsinger-Robinson then bounced from Indianapolis to Cleveland and finally to Holland, Mich. where he has been ever since.

Following high school graduation from West Ottawa High School, Holsinger-Robinson attended Alma College where he received a Bachelors degree in Philosophy.

After graduation, Holsinger-Robinson worked as a chef for seven years while also pursuing a masters degree in comparative religions at Western Michigan University.

“I taught there for three years while I was working on my masters,” said Holsinger-Robinson, who is an avid cyclist in his free time and bikes close to 6,000 miles a year. “I had sub-specialties in Cognitive Science and Developmental Psychology and worked for a long time under the idea of the Cognitive Approach to the study of Religion.”

Following his time at WMU, Holsinger-Robinson worked for Herman Miller where he helped to launch their first e-commerce store and then did numerous projects around Grand Rapids including Momentum, 5×5 night, ArtPrize, and the Ted-X Conference.

“The connection between those things and ArtPrize is that they are all start-up’s,” Holsinger-Robinson said. “They are all places where someone like Rick DeVos in this case, had an idea and needed someone to help figure out how to make it real and really that has been my expertise ever since I started business.”

Now that he has moved to GVSU, Holsinger-Robinson plans to use all he has learned to help with future students.

“I have learned the methodically and a way of thinking over that period of time that I think I can apply about how to break down big problems or projects people are interested in,” Holsinger-Robinson said. “A lot of times I think people become overwhelmed when they take a look at a big goal and my brain naturally dissects everything and I don’t let a lot of the details get in the way.”

A lot of what I’m able to bring to Grand Valley students is one, the ability to learn that methodology and also as a faculty partner to be able to help them launch these big ideas. I get excited about ideas of all kinds and getting people excited about what next steps look like and how to pursue them and work with partners in the community.”

Even though there is no crystal ball telling what will happen after his two years is up, Chamberlain is sure the college will be able fill the possible void.

“The position is constructed to bring in experts in the field so students can get connected like that,” Chamberlain said. “If he doesn’t want to come back after two years then we will bring someone else in. It’s intended to be a revolving door position.” While Holsinger-Robinson may be with the college for two years he said he will have an open-door policy for all students.

“They can expect that my door is always going be open and I’m always going to be excited about engaging them,” he said. “I’m going to try to figure out ways to reach out to students and I’d really hope that they take active part in reaching out to me with whatever it is they are interested in. Even if it’s just grabbing a cup of coffee and having a broad conversation about what they want to do with their future. It’s all good.”

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