Engage Your Entrepreneurial Spirit

The Excellence in Entrepreneurship, Career Empowerment & Leadership (EXCEL) Lab is SMTD’s home base for performing arts entrepreneurship, leadership, and career services. We take a personalized, collaborative approach to professional development by first exploring students’ individual visions and goals, and then connecting them with the resources they need to thrive. Whether you are seeking out a new career pathway or honing in on your competitive edge, EXCEL offers comprehensive access to skill-building, mentorship, and funding to help make your dreams a reality.

The EXCEL Lab catalyzes success for SMTD students and alumni through weekly workshops, 1:1 mentoring, and more than $100,000 in student project and venture funding. Initial funding for the programming was made possible by the Eileen Weiser EXCEL Fund, thanks to a generous gift from the Weiser Family.

Stay up to date about student projects, special guests, and other upcoming activities with the EXCEL Log.

Mission & Strategic Priorities

EXCEL is committed to providing the resources each SMTD student needs to launch and sustain a life in the arts. We expand the professional development bandwidth of your degree program and support a variety of your needs, from the job search to project management and more. EXCEL is committed to helping each student turn ideas into action, while broadening the spotlight on success so that every member of our community can emerge from Michigan poised to claim their individual leadership potential.

Our work aims to advance systemic change around practices of arts leadership, management, and entrepreneurship, guided by three strategic priorities:

  1. Fostering community in online environments by elevating a diverse array of student stories and new programming formats that will better serve an increasingly virtual world.
  2. Elevating anti-racist agendas throughout SMTD, and developing best practices to situate social and racial justice at the heart of our training programs.
  3. Deepening our offerings by intentionally sequencing courses, workshops, and experiential learning opportunities to enrich the potential for budding arts leaders to catalyze change.

“The constant support of the EXCEL department helped us continue with our festival during the pandemic. The suggestions given to us during those hard times were especially helpful, and the support to our SA’OAXACA faculty was an aspect that helped keep the momentum of the festival going.”

Gwendolyn Matias-Ryan

Creator & Artistic Director of SA’OAXACA, SM ’19, Viola

Students attended an EXCEL coaching session, event, or class during the 2021-22 school year

Making Big Things Happen

Do you have a project or idea that will advance the performing arts?
Does your chamber ensemble want to go pro?
Do you want to organize a dance festival or bring new plays to the stage?
Maybe you have an idea for a killer smartphone app that will enhance the audience experience?

Whatever your dream, the EXCEL program can help put your ideas into action.

Funding Opportunities

Eileen Weiser EXCEL Fund

The Eileen Weiser EXCEL Fund has supported more than $700,000 in student project, venture, and internship funding to-date. Initially funded by the Weiser Family, EXCEL’s funding programs continue to impact hundreds of students each year.

EXCEL Enterprise Fund

The EXCEL Enterprise Fund offers micro grants of up to $1,000 for students to support individual or team projects that have significant professional development and community impact. In exceptional cases proposals may be awarded up to $1,500.

General EXCEL funding information and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For more Enterprise information and to apply

Performing Arts EXCELerator

The Performing Arts EXCELerator is an entrepreneurial fellowship program open to all U-M students with early-stage performing arts ventures as individuals or teams. Interdisciplinary projects involving two or more U-M departments are encouraged. Selected projects receive mentoring and support, and have access to up to $1,000 seed money, with an opportunity to pitch for up to $4,000 in additional funding.

General EXCEL funding information and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For more EXCELerator information and to apply


The School of Music, Theatre & Dance EXCEL Prize recognizes extraordinary excellence in performing arts entrepreneurship, leadership and social impact, and is awarded to a University of Michigan student or student team that has established a standout performing arts venture. Beyond the cash prize of $10,000, the awardee receives mentorship by EXCEL staff.

General EXCEL funding information and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For more EXCEL Prize information and to apply


EXCEL connects students to paid internships with partner arts organizations that provide exclusive opportunities to SMTD students. Past partnerships have included the Metropolitan Opera, the University Musical Society (UMS), the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, DanceWorks Chicago, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, the EXCEL Internship Fund provides students with grant awards to cover living and travel expenses incurred through accepting unpaid or underfunded summer internships.

Internship Opportunities with EXCEL Partner Organizations

Internship Fund guidelines and application

EXCEL Staff with 2023 EXCEL Prize winner, Lydia Bangura, who holds a large check

EXCEL Immersions

EXCEL Immersions are unique, professional development trips that take students to different cultural centers around the world to meet professionals doing work in a broad range of artistic disciplines. See firsthand what a career in the arts can look like and start building your network by exploring leading arts organizations and engaging with top professionals in the field.

Previous Immersions

students EXCEL

Coaching Appointments

Current students can use our team Calendly link to schedule a one-on-one appointment with a member of the EXCEL Team.

Students gathered in the EXCEL Lab around a conference table. In the background is a screen with the title "Student Producer Roundtable"

Dean's Liaisons

The Dean’s Liaisons program is an arts management and leadership training program that places qualified SMTD students with paid work positions in SMTD offices and departments.

EXCEL Publications


EXCEL Log: Check out our student-led blog for content focused on current SMTD interests, projects, and more!

The EXCEL Lab 2022 Annual Report

EXCEL 2022 Annual Report cover with logo, portraits of students

Annual Reports: Explore EXCEL’s impact at SMTD.

Contact Us

Schedule a coaching appointment with an EXCEL staff member on our Calendly team website.

Find us on Facebook and Instagram!

General questions? Email [email protected] and you will be directed to an appropriate staff member.