Priorities:GVSU Student Priorities

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The GVSU Innovation Fellows realize that there are many great resources for entrepreneurs in Grand Rapids, GVSU downtown campus, and exclusive clubs and groups. Additionally, there are many opportunities to pitch business plans and look for funding. That being said, there are limited opportunities at Grand Valley to be introduced to design thinking outside of the classroom, and of those that do exist, students know very little about them. Our goal is to connect GVSU students to the robust community of Grand Rapids. We want to open doors to local nonprofits, businesses, and activities where students can innovate, volunteer, learn, or find resources. Ultimately, we hope to accelerate students' comfort in their community and help them realize that the city is bursting with opportunity.

Opportunity Focus

  • There are minimal opportunities for students to experience the design process outside of coursework.
  • The I&E resources in the Business College are not readily available to students of all departments.
  • There are many potential off-campus resources, but fewer than meet the eye on a first look.
  • Lack of widely known and understood connections to the Grand Rapids community.
  • Students outside of major-specific requirements have minimal connections to nonprofits and local businesses.

2023-2024 Cohort

Project 1: GVSU Connect website

This idea is a simple, easy to understand website for students to find and discover resources on campus. The current GVSU website has many resources listed, but has the issue of being difficult to navigate. Students would have a much easier time utilizing these resources through a sorted and categorized webpage, which is where this idea comes in. We would create a webpage that has all of GVSU resources listed in a helpful way in one spot so that students can both discover and find anything they might need.

Key Tactics:

  • Coordinate and collect all necessary links and resources to add to website
  • Organize and categorize resources by need for students
  • Contact website holders about adding new page
  • Initiate development and continued updates of links and resources

Project 2: PGVSU Web

This idea is an interactive display that would be put in a centrally located spot on campus. It would allow students to explore resources through a flow chart. It would include a TV with a small computer attached that would run a website and have a controller with some tactile buttons. As students explore the flow chart of resources (put in a hierarchy that is sensible) descriptions and QR codes would pop up for students to use. There could be another version as well that is a website with a similar UI. It could also collect data about which resources students are using more or less.

Key Tactics:

  • Purchase Technology to run website/html page
  • Create a website/html page that shows off resources
  • Create a controller for the display
  • Get partners for sustainability

Project 3: Orientation resource fair

This idea is a one-day event that happens during Welcome Week at GVSU, targeted towards first year students. It would take place in one venue with representatives from all of the major resources/ things to know, so that students have one spot to learn the basics about living at Grand Valley and feel supported and set up for success for their first semester. Some examples would be the tutoring center, University Counseling Center, recwell, transportation, Laker Food, and more. This event should be informative, but also a way to be social with their peers. This event would also include a brochure or similar material that could be taken home with the basic summary of information on these resources, such as where they are located or what website to find them on. This material would be interactive throughout the event, with completion earning students a prize.

Key Tactics:

  • Coordinate with the office currently running freshmen orientation.
  • Bring together a list of participating resources who would have a booth or activity at this event.
  • Determine a location, consider fun aspects like food, and find a prize
  • Determine a flow of traffic, perhaps by dorm and students are brought by their RA
  • Create interactive material and determine the key pieces of information that should be condensed here.

Project 4: Master Guide pamphlet

This idea is a physical pamphlet disguised as a $20 bill that contains all the resources every 1st year student must know about. All college kids could use more money and so, the appearance of a $20 bill captures the attention. The cash theme also indicates this pamphlet is valuable and should be kept, not thrown away like any other handout. Upon further inspection, the inside says “GVSU is a cashless campus, but you should still keep these valuables in your wallet!” along with all the resources’ QR codes. Examples of some resources listed are: the Counseling Center, Success Coaching, food pantries, where to change your major, schedule an appointment, sign up for clubs, pay off parking tickets, apply for scholarships, get STD/HIV testing/free condoms, and so much more. By having all of the most important resources all in one place, rather than scattered throughout the year, on various bulletin boards and revealed in random emails, students new to GVSU are able to get a comprehensive idea & easily access to everything offered. This pamphlet acts as a master guide for any resource-based questions 1st years living on the Allendale campus may have now or in the future at GVSU.

Key Tactics:

  • Finalize formatting by generating all the links into QR codes & adding missing Resource Centers
  • Configure printers at the Promotions Office, Creation Station, or Laker Store for color printing correct size and color of the pamphlets
  • Contact LCDs & RAs to distribute the pamphlets to all their residents.
  • Log data retrieved by the QR codes to analyze pamphlet usage & attraction.

2022-2023 Cohort

Project 1: Mobile Innovation Lab

This project is a spin on the 2019 cohort who pitched the idea of Grand Valley Innovation Bus (GVIB). Aidan Clawson was ran point of the project but unfortunately due to COVID GVIB was never fully executed on Grand Valley's campus. The Mobile Innovation Lab (MIL) would also be a bus that would get a complete make-over. Inside the bus would include different workstations for innovation and entrepreneurship including 3D printers, cabinet space for prototyping materials, tables and chairs for collaboration, and more! The goal of the Mobile Innovation Lab is to help students that are pursuing anything within innovation and entrepreneurship whether that be for a class project or personal hobbies. We would also like to gain more awareness for the innovation club and boost UIF knowledge on campus. The project is also receiving help from former UIF 2019 cohort member Kayla Lett for further insight on the previous plan.

Mobile Innovation Lab would run point by Rylan Bernhardt and would be open to the public in Fall 2023.

Key Tactics

  • Communicate with Kayla Lett to see where the old project stands on campus
  • Find/buy a bus
  • Funding for materials needed
  • Appoint someone to be the driver and get CDL
  • Advertise the MIL to students and other potential audiences

Project 2: Projects & Prototypes Showcase

Students on campus have a lot of ideas flowing in their heads about innovations, small businesses, school projects, and more. However, the design process can be quite overwhelming and often times students will hit a block and would like to have assistance from others who might be in the same boat as them. The idea of the Projects and Prototypes Showcase is to bring students together in one room who are all working on a project of some sort, academic or personal, to allow the projects to be shown off in order to get feedback, advice, critiques, or even networking opportunities. The Showcase is designed so that each project remains unfinished in order to gain feedback from other students or faculty to further their product. The showcase will be a participant driven discussion meaning that whatever the participant puts into it, they will get out by asking questions. Shortly after the sign-up for the event, each participant will receive an email explaining the design thinking process and further information to allow the concept to become a little more rubricated. This event will also have local entrepreneurs and business owners, faculty in the innovation departments, and students who have created products and small businesses on campus to initiate conversation and give key advice. This will become a great networking opportunity for those students to gain key connections for future planning.

Kassie Gaytan will run point on this project and will have it in action by the winter semester of 2023. In the future, this event will be able to be held multiple times in an academic year.

Key Tactics

  • Set up official date and reserve the Grand River room in Kirkhof
  • Inform guests (faculty, past students, and locals) and try to get them to be involved
  • Send out advertising material well in advance
  • Sort through sign up sheet and send out the preliminary email
  • Promote the work of UIF campus wide

Project 3: Inspiring Students through I&E by Faculty Education

Throughout our research of campus initiatives related to innovation and entrepreneurship, we realized students are unaware and uninspired to seek out such offerings. Knowing how important the influence of professors upon students is, our problem statement became: How might we empower faculty to develop Innovation & Entrepreneurship mindsets in students at Grand Valley? Integration of I&E into courses not only fosters a more motivational classroom environment but can facilitate career readiness and effectiveness. Our change strategy is to host an educational event of faculty attendance to learn about instilling the I&E mindsets in students. Inspiring Students would be an all day conference with various speakers ranging from Grand Valley faculty, local innovators and entrepreneurs, to successful student startups. The conference will be arranged so that attending faculty can pick and choose which segments to attend. After a successful kickoff event, interested faculty can expect future conferences, personal advising sessions, and a pamphlet with suggested action items/checklist.

Sophia Raab will run point on this project. It will be ready to start by the faculty summer orientation in 2023.

Key Tactics

  • Reach out to the Faculty Teaching and Learning Center (FTLC)
  • Communicate with potential conference speakers
  • Arrange a date and location for the event
  • Finalize conference speakers
  • Print fliers and advertise the event via email
  • Host the kickoff conference
  • Follow up with a calendar of associated events and a pamphlet with suggested action items/checklist
  • Arrange personal advising sessions with interested faculty

2020-2021 Cohort

Project 1: Weekends on the Town

Freshman Year at GVSU can be quiet and lonely for many. Out in the rural community of Allendale, it is easy to find oneself feeling alone and secluded from "normal life." The primary goal of Weekends in GR is to help freshmen get to know new people from their immediate campus community while experiencing downtown Grand Rapids and get a taste for what the city has to offer. Once grouped with others with similar passions and interests, freshmen would be transported downtown for a day or two of activity. Some ideas for these activities include: volunteering with local nonprofits, working on small projects with local businesses, exploring trails and parks around the city, eating out at favorite food joints, etc.

Brady Mills would run point on this project, having experienced the loneliness of freshman year firsthand and always wanting to be more plugged into the community. He has a passion for helping freshmen work through the awkward transitions of new community life.

Contacting local organizations would take place Spring of 2020, and student leadership reach out and training would occur at the end of the summer. This program would be set by and ready to go by Fall Semester of 2021.

Key Tactics

  • Gathering and preparing student leaders (ie. Resident Assistants)
  • Organizing specific events that can be tailored to different interests
  • Connecting with local nonprofits to ensure engaging service work awaits the freshmen
  • Connecting with local businesses to ensure opportunities are prepared to explore
  • Reaching out to the City of Grand Rapids to help with guidance and oversight
  • Reaching out to local restaurants for special offers and reserved spots
  • Creating a strong grouping system to put freshmen with potential friends

Project 2: Innovative Thinking Department

The Innovative Thinking Department would bring students and their communities together. By having an innovation office on campus and a prototype space downtown, students can learn how to use the design thinking process while improving their community. It also allows local businesses and startups to engage with students and Grand Valley. Giving light to networking and volunteering opportunities for current students.

Key Tactics

  • The Fellow in charge of this project will be Hannah Cline.
  • The department would ideally be available starting the fall semester of 2022
  • Finding space for office building/room on campus
  • Finding a building/room in Downtown Grand Rapids
  • Working faculty from different departments to create ideation projects
  • Working with local businesses and nonprofits
  • Finding Students and Faculty willing to oversee and work in the offices

Project 3: Downtown Creation Stations

The goal of the Downtown Creation Stations would be to communicate opportunities for students and community members in Downtown Grand Rapids. This would be a valuable resource to freshmen as well as other students and people community to accumulate service hours and help others in the process. Tablets at every station will have an easy-to-use experience of finding information. Integrating an involvement rewards system would be an incentive for the use of this product/program. The stations would have tools for location and transportation to areas of need in the community.

Ethan Paras would be in charge of leading this project, using his interest for product design and graphics, as well as his love of the downtown area. This project would optimally be up and running by Spring 2022.

Key Tactics

  • Integrating iPad stations for ease of use
  • Providing maps and opportunities available in the immediate area
  • Creating a community involvement rewards system
  • Creating a hub on Campus to get students involved
  • Providing a unique transportation to get students where they need to go

2020 Cohort

Timeline to enhance I&E ecosystem

Now (week 1 through week 5): 

Educate ourselves on the importance and effect of the design thinking process. This will allows us to implement affective change throughout the campus. In week three we will host a stakeholder meeting in order to begin the process of sharing our ideas. This will allow us to make contact throughout the campus and community that will aid in furthering our project.

Month 2:

Begin to plan Design Start Project in partner with the previous UIF cohorts. This will involve scheduling times, locations, food, funding and planning the agenda of the event. We will have to interview various potential participants in order to establish what they would like to get out of this event.

Month 3 through 6:

Use this time to contact potential donors and funding organizations to further the spread. Host the Design Start Project at the beginning of winter semester to allow clubs to put their findings and innovations into action. After the event collect feedback from participants regarding what they feel they gained from the event as well as any problem areas they uncovered.

Month 7 through 12:

Begin to market and prepare for next years round of Design Start. Reflect on feedback given by the participants and make changes to the program accordingly. At the end of winter semester check back in with club participants to see if changes have been implemented and if so what worked.

Year 2:

Follow previous steps and continue to revise as new information comes along. Prepare to pass the event to the new cohort.

Project 1: Design Start 2.0

Project 2: Interdisciplinary Co-Op Study

This project is a course for interdisciplinary study tailored toward each students specific area of study. Students will gain real world experience in their field of study. One day a week students will be at their assigned field-study location. They will will create industry connections through networking and shadow based experience. On one other day of the week, students will meet in class with the professor and reflect on what they learned that week at their field-study. Students will hear from other students and their experiences.

For this project Kathryn Wagner would be the leader of this project. She herself has struggled with making connections in the career she would like to go, and wishes she would have had the opportunity to participate in a class like this. She is aware how important networking is and would like to help other students with the task.

Key Tactics

  • Finding a professor willing to take on the task/class
  • Finding professionals in the outside community to form a partnership with GVSU in order to run this class
  • Determining if this class could be a requirement or if it should be an elective
  • Advertising the class to students and getting them interested

Project 3: Passion Project Pitch

The goal of this project is to provide an outlet for all students to pursue their passions and have the opportunity to earn resources and connections in order to advance their project. This would be a large project made possible by the collaboration of many people and sponsors. The initial process would be to gather the support of various companies and people throughout Grand Valley. Once this is established, the logistics of the event may be worked out. This would include finding judges, a location, a time, preparing marketing material and establishing the agenda of the event. Once all of these details are worked out, we may begin to publicize the event and encourage participants to enter. We will have a spot to submit their application and view details of the event. Once we have contestants, we will be able to host the event on the chosen date. The winners will begin to work with the connections, contacts and resources they have been given.

Project 4: GVIB: Grand Valley Innovation Bus

The goal of GVIB is to create a moving space that can double as being transportation to innovation/entrepreneur events. As well as being a platform itself for students and faculty to create new projects and ideas to share with the school. The bus would travel around campus every week to advertise innovation but it would also be taking students to events and maker spaces they might not normally have the ability to travel to easily. Aidan Clawson would take the lead in designing the space inside and out. Being an Engineering student who had no car as a freshman he understands how it can be very hard to get to places not covered by the usual bus route.

Key Tactics:

  • Finding a Bus to repurpose
  • Getting funding for project and the bus
  • Making the space functional and attractive
  • Advertising and Encouraging students to ride

2019 Cohort~

Strategy One: SPI Club [3-4 weeks]

In order to promote a collaborative environment where students can learn about entrepreneurship and innovation, we will pursue the idea of launching a "Social Product Innovation" club. This club will allow students to collaborate with one another in order to tackle issues within the local communities. Our hope is that students will learn valuable skills such as networking, prototyping, and business pitching throughout the duration of this club's existence. We feel it has the potential to reach students throughout Grand Valley, and change their ideas on what entrepreneurship and innovation really means.

Strategy Two: Innovation Showcase [3-4 months]

The Innovation Showcase is a program that would bring together students, faculty, campus organizations, and small businesses.

The Innovation Showcase would feature innovative projects and designs at popular places around campus, such as the cafeterias, bookstore, and dorm buildings. This would encourage onlookers to participate in design thinking and innovation clubs and events, as well as give innovators a chance to show off their projects.

Innovation Showcase Video:

Strategy Three: Start-Up Funding [6 months]

While GVSU and Grand Rapids have many different programs which allow students to pursue entrepreneurship and innovation, there are not many opportunities for funding. Our goal is to find more funding programs which will give money to these different projects. In order to do this, we will reach out to different companies in the Grand Rapids area and find resources on GVSU's campus. We feel this is important because, in order to put on various events like Design Start, we would need funding.

Strategy Four: Prototyping a Product [8 months]

A main goal of the Grand Valley State University Social Product Innovation Club is to create a solid product prototype. In order to create a prototype, we need to pick a problem to focus on and go through the Design Thinking process. First, we will go through the empathize stage by going to companies, or hospitals to gather information. We will then define our problem and layout possible obstacles we could encounter. Next, we will get a group of people together to ideate and brainstorm possible solutions. Once we have completed all of these steps, we will then be in the prototyping phase. During this time, we will create a low-resolution mock-up of our potential product in order to test it. We hope to create a product that will benefit the communities around us.

Strategy Five: Reach out to Start Garden [12 months]

Start Garden is a company based in Grand Rapids. They believe in learning by doing. They continually try new things, learn from them, and then adapt to fit. The goal of Start Garden is to establish a culture of entrepreneurship and invest whatever they can into that culture.

Start Garden mostly focuses on helping start-up companies get on their feet and get ready to take off. Our goal is to reach out to this company and get in touch with different businessmen and businesswomen. These people could potentially act as mentors and help the SPI club take important strides towards creating a successful product.

Completed Projects


On February 24, 2017, GVSU hosted their first TEDx event themed “The Blueprints between X and Why.” A limited amount of tickets were available for purchase, with the event also being live-streamed in the library. The second TEDxGVSU event is scheduled for March 16, 2018 with the title “Shape.”

Related Links


Change story video 2022-2023: Creating a Conference for Projects and Prototypes at Grand Valley State University

Innovation Showcase video 2020-2021:

Innovation Showcase video 2020:

Innovation Showcase video 2019:

2022-2023 Fellows:

Kassie Gaytan

Rylan Bernhardt

Sophia Raab

2020-2021 Fellows:

Brady Mills

Ethan Paras

Hannah Cline

2020 Fellows:





2019 Fellows:

Abby Cooper

Amanda Moy

Drew Craven

Meredith Hinz

2018 Fellows:





2017 Fellows:

Allison Rogutich

Ben Parsell

Joe VanderBroek

Nikhil Watsa


2014 Fellows:

Kathryn Christopher

Leah Bauer