University of Denver Offers a Taste of Entrepreneurship


University of Denver freshman Teddy Sullivan has always thought of jewelry making as a hobby, but a school program has her wondering if it could be something more.

“I’m thinking about turning my little hobby into something I could make money from and, maybe, something I could make a living from. Even if not now, maybe eventually,” she said.

Sullivan is a student in DU’s Living and Learning Community for Creativity & Entrepreneurship, a program that puts like-minded freshmen on the same dorm floor and in classes to study a theme. Creativity & Entrepreneurship is one of five concentrations offered.

Program Director Sarabeth Berk said the Creativity & Entrepreneurship is a two-credit program that exposes students from a variety of majors to the creativity and innovation that underlies entrepreneurship.

Students hear from a variety of guest lecturers and go on field trips to such places as Galvanize, a tech co-working space in Denver, and SparkFun, a maker space in Boulder. Instruction also includes lessons on Surrealist art, sports psychology and “performance mindsets.”

“We’re trying to provide a broader vision of what it means to be an entrepreneur and to show you can be an entrepreneur and an artist (for example),” Berk said.

Living and studying with other entrepreneurially minded students makes it easier to imagine business opportunities, said Sullivan, a computer sciences major. “They think of things I never would think of and I think of things they never would think of. Together, we make the puzzle,” she said.

Aspen Clark grew up in an entrepreneurial household. Her parents started the Baby Einstein company, which they later sold to Disney, so it was only natural for her to join the entrepreneurial cohort at DU.

“It was kind of cool growing up alongside a company,” she said. “It was important for me to continue that way of life.”

With her lifelong exposure to entrepreneurship, Clark said she finds the program goes easy on business nuts-and-bolts in favor of emphasizing creativity. “I couldn’t say it’s the best program for learning to start a business; it’s more to learn about innovation,” she said.

Experience in the classroom

The Living and Learning program can be a gateway to the entrepreneurship program at DU’s Daniels College of Business, which is led by Stephen Miller, senior director of entrepreneurship. Miller, former president of CleanLaunch, a clean tech incubator, said he has always been dubious about how well entrepreneurship can be taught in the classroom alone.

For that reason, he said, he invites successful entrepreneurs to lecture. “It’s a lot more meaningful for students to hear about entrepreneurship from someone like Kevin Reddy (CEO of Noodles & Co.),” he said.

The program also offers an elevator pitch competition and the Madden Cup, an app-building competition for first-year business students.

Though the program is housed in the business school, Miller said he tries to spread the gospel of entrepreneurship throughout the university. For that reason, any DU student can earn a minor in entrepreneurship.

“We have to make it appropriate for everyone,” he said.  

FACT BOX

University of Denver

Private

Enrollment: 12,000

Daniels College of Business

130 students in Living and Learning Communities program

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