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. There aren’t safe spaces to play around with new ideas, collaborate without pressure, or connect with people in different areas of study. The GVSU Honors College is bursting with potential. We hope to introduce better methods to inspire young, innovative Grand Valley students, across disciplines, to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, and make innovation a key aspect of campus culture through the creation of clubs or workshops that will nurture these values. Afterwards, we want to develop a communication pipeline so that good ideas can be nurtured, grown, and developed through collaboration.

Opportunity Focus

  • Few 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.
  • Create a more inclusive environment where students can collaborate and share ideas.
  • Lack of events, idea pitches, or competitions that encourage students to pursue individual exploration and experimentation with the design thinking process.
  • Lack of campus support around increasing awareness and familiarity with innovation and design thinking

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 impliment 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 conacts 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 schedualling 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 put of this event.

Month 3 through 6:

Use this time to contact potential donors and funding organizations to furhter the spread. Host the Design Start Project at the begining 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 implimented 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.

There are many key tactics in order to bring the project to life including: 

  • 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 collaberation of many people and sponsors. The initial process would be to gather the support of various compnies and people throughout Grand Valley. Once this is extablished, 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 publisize 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 choosen 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 get 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


Innovation Showcase video 2020:

Innovation Showcase video 2019:

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