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Friday, June 07, 2013 - Take 5 with Amy Butler
By Katie Land, news editor

Composed of a diverse array of faculty, staff and administrators, the Oakland University community is unique, creative, and dedicated. As part of a continuing effort to explore the various roles and lives of our Golden Grizzlies, the News at OU website presents a special interview series. We invite you to share these stories and “Take 5” with OU.

Take 5 with Amy Butler


Amy Butler is the executive director of the Oakland University SmartZone Business Accelerator OU INC. An Oakland alumna, Amy returned to campus as an administrator in August 2011. Her role encompasses the Rochester Hills/OU SmartZone Business Incubator, business accelerator and the university’s Clean Energy Research Center. Amy provides leadership and direction for high quality commercialization, capital investment programs and services for OU INC, as well as its client companies and other customer businesses of the incubator community. Previous to her work at OU INC, Amy spent more than 30 years serving the state government as director of the Bureau of Energy Systems for the Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth. Amy is married and has three grown sons.


1) How would you describe your experience as a student at Oakland?

The opportunity to swim competitively is what brought me here as a student, and I have never regretted my choice. I love my career, life, and the wonderful opportunities that have come my way. And the foundation for all that was built here. I was a synchronized swimmer in high school in Marysville. Having grown up on the Great Lakes, I’d always been a strong swimmer, and began to swim competitively my senior year. When Title IX passed, establishing equal opportunity for women in sports, I began to train, learn techniques, and swam in meets, ultimately qualifying for the first women’s state high school finals. At the time, OU was building their women’s swimming program and sent out letters to seniors who qualified for state finals.

I never dreamed of being able to attend a four-year institution because of family finances. I was offered a scholarship and came in as an athlete and part of the OU family. Oakland’s athletics staff made sure students were strong academically and that played an important role in my life. I majored in biology with concentrations in math and chemistry. There were students studying to be biologists, engineers, chemists, dentists, and lawyers on the team, so there were always resources to help achieve academic success while also being an athlete.

The quality of education here at Oakland is incomparable. The professors really cared about our education. This foundation, in addition to swimming on the men’s team in high school and joint teams in college actually helped prepare me for being successful as a woman in the scientific field and throughout my career. I always lead with my best self, because I know that I am blazing trails and leading by example for young women to choose the careers they have a passion for. Working for the School of Engineering and Computer Science is a great opportunity that allows me to help young women find careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

2) What are your top three favorite TV shows?

-Shark Tank
-Criminal Minds
-NCIS

3) Why is OU INC a vital part of the university and local business community?

The university has a wealth of resources, talent, and facilities to help businesses contribute to the community. This is a very important role because not only does it help the community grow, it also provides students with applied, hands-on work experience. It is so important to give students a great professional experience that provides them a means to stay in Michigan and work in the region after graduation.

4) Do you have any summer travel plans?

I traveled to Japan this spring with an Oakland County economic development team. Japan is a very important country to our area because it is the largest foreign nation directly contributing to Oakland County. We met with four universities, four governments, and 27 companies while there. We had one day off to travel, and I was able to visit dojo and meet the 81-year-old female sensei there. It was a life moment for me, because I have studied martial arts for many years and achieved the rank of second-degree black belt in Okinawan Shorin Ryu. This June my husband and I are going to Portland, Oregon and going to golf our way down the coast to Sacramento.

5) One of OU INC’s tenant clients has recently “graduated” to their own facility. What makes this a great achievement?

The philosophy behind a Smartzone is to link university resources to community resources to accelerate business development. We have a strategic partnership with Rochester Hills, so we are growing businesses that are creating jobs and serving other businesses in the city.

At OU INC, we measure success by the milestones of our client businesses, such as when they obtain funding, make their first sales, create jobs, and achieve awards and gain media recognition. Advenovation, the client that recently graduated from the program, is a systems integrator for robotics. Their staff members volunteer at our Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition, and have incorporated their methods into OU coursework. Our clients build a long-term relationship with the university while building the community and creating new jobs.