Design Horizons Program Brings Together Fellows from Across the University

In Summer 2020, many were distracted by the problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic. But a select group of 24 CU Denver students focused their energies on solving business problems through the new Design Horizons Entrepreneurial Fellows Program.

Design Horizons is an immersive program that spans the entire academic year. The program intentionally combines students from a variety of disciplines, including engineering, arts and media, architecture, and business and entrepreneurship.

“The 24 fellows selected from across CU Denver are given the unparalleled opportunity to develop a new creative venture, establish professional networks, and build leadership skills,” said Sarah Engel, Associate Director of Operations at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship.

The inaugural cohort of fellows worked on a wide range of projects, including a new type of water bottle, sustainable undergarments, and an online gig-economy platform for artists.

“I’ve always been interested in the cusp of technology and business,” said Design Horizon Fellow and Computer Science major JT Wright. “I think where spaces intersect is much more interesting than an area in its purest form.”

Wright worked on Operation Sunday (the online gig-economy platform for artists) after being inspired by a friend who recently moved and had trouble connecting with other artists and like-minded creators in his new city.

The website for Operation Sunday

As a Computer Science major, JT relished the chance to meet other students outside his discipline.

“It’s so brilliant being able to learn from them and cement your understanding by attempting to explain what you know to them,” he said of working with students from a variety of other majors. “The ability to meld and learn from people who are doing things that you’ll never learn is so important.”

Design Horizons pairs each team of fellows with mentors from the business community who help through the entire process.

“People can tell you what’s going to go wrong and how to avoid it and that’s easy, but people that actually help you go through that thing and learn from it are much bigger,” JT said of his team’s mentors.

JT’s teammate Manuel Garza said it was all about problem solving and process.

“I wanted to be able to understand the challenges in order to help create something that can solve the problem,” Garza said. “Do people want this? Do people need this? And how do you remove pain points for customers? And not just a painkiller but something that is extra – that is better than what exists already.”

Some of the Operation Sunday team with their mentors

Design Horizons Fellows learn how to fail quickly and start over again.

“I am more enthusiastic about starting a business now that I have more tools at my disposal,” said Garza. “It gave me a boost of confidence as well.”

“It’s mostly exploring the multiplicative idea of when you get a bunch of really brilliant people in a room together what they can accomplish,” said Wright.

More than just creating an amazing product or business idea, that is what Design Horizons Fellows carry with them long after the program is over.

Applications open every spring and are due in July. Check this link for more details and deadlines.

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