Design Horizons Entrepreneurial Fellows Program

Entrepreneurial Fellows Program

The Design Horizons Entrepreneurial Fellows Program is an immersive learning journey for students passionate about entrepreneurship, innovation, design, and all forms of creativity. Created in partnership with the College of Arts & Media; the College of Engineering, Design and Computing; and the Business School, this program provides students an unparalleled opportunity to develop a new creative venture, establish professional networks, and build leadership skills.

The Program

Up to 24 CU Denver students will be selected from across the university to rapidly develop entrepreneurial competency and leadership skills by completing team-based projects, working closely with professional mentors, and participating in on- and off-campus networking events. Student teams will identify compelling challenges, design and test solutions, and discover a viable business model for their ideas. Design Fellows will be able to pitch at startup events, meet regional investors in the Denver Metro region, and launch their own high-impact creative ventures. 

With a focus on inclusivity, social engagement, and innovation, our goal is to empower and launch the next generation of creative industry leaders. Any CU Denver student can apply. Preference will be given to students from the College of Arts & Media; the College of Engineering, Design and Computing; and the Business School. 

Only 24 spots available.
Priority deadline on Friday, Dec. 3rd.
Final deadline on Wednesday, Dec. 15th. 

Applications should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Design Horizons
Top Benefits
  • Earn a micro-credential for your resume and career building.
  • Make a difference in Denver and in your field of interest.
  • Receive a $1,000 personal stipend.
  • Access an additional budget of $1,500 per team to build your venture prototype.
  • Grow your professional network with other like-minded, ambitious students, creatives, and industry professionals.
  • Be mentored and coached by professional entrepreneurs to help develop your own high-impact venture.
  • Build a versatile entrepreneurial skill set and mindset.
  • Participate in networking events, including exclusive pitch opportunities, with industry and community leaders.

As a Design Horizons Fellow, you’ll explore topics in business, team dynamics, and social design to learn what it takes to become a successful creative entrepreneur. There are three primary expectations to complete the program.

Once selected, a Design Fellow’s primary responsibility is to 1) show up, 2) make connections, and 3) grow your network and skill set. The curriculum is designed around a central project you’ll develop with a team of 3-4 other Design Fellows. Depending on how far you get, there is the opportunity to pitch and launch your new creative venture. To complete the program, Design Fellows need to attend:

  • Kickoff Event: Initial Design Innovation Sprint
    Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 13-15, 2022 (all-day, to be confirmed)
  • Design Horizons Saturday Sessions (once per month January through May)
  • Weekly meetings with your team (1-2 hours)
  • Monthly meetings with your team’s mentor (1-2 hours)
  • An average 5-10 hours of individual work every week
  • Two or more regional events related to entrepreneurship and/or networking
  • PLUS! Submission of startup company pitch and associated materials for THE CLIMB and the Lewis Award Program

To receive full consideration, students need to submit their application by the priority deadline of Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. You’ll be asked four questions:

  1. What skills are you hoping to utilize or improve through this program?
  2. What excites you about being an entrepreneur? Feel free to tell us a story about an innovator who inspired you.
  3. What type of impact (social, community, economic, or other) are you hoping to make given what you will learn through Design Horizons?
  4. You have an idea, and it will help 200,000 people. To get this idea off the ground, you will need to work 80 hours a week over the next 3 months with a brand new team. In an entrepreneurial startup, what role would you ideally like to play?

Important Program Dates

December 3, 2021
Priority applications due for full consideration (applications remain open until final deadline)

December 17, 2021
Cohort announced

January 13-15, 2022
Kickoff Event: Initial Design Innovation Sprint

Regional Events to Attend:

  • April 2022
    THE CLIMB | Jake Jabs Business Plan Competition
  • February – May 2022
    Lewis Award Program
Applications are now open for Spring 2022.
Project Examples
  • Vijay’s band was struggling to book gigs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He joined the Design Horizons Entrepreneurial Fellows Program with the dream of creating a vibrant and interactive local online music scene for Denver’s musicians.
  • Amanda and her team designed some new AR/VR approaches to connect patients in rural and developing areas with clinicians in urban areas, where healthcare is more accessible.
  • Fernando and Vanessa carpool to campus together from Arvada and are seeking solutions for the city to launch a student carpooling service that is less expensive than driving and faster than buses.
  • Having read about how millions of girls in Africa drop out of school once they begin menstruating, Sara is determined to design attractive and low-cost, reusable menstrual products so that more girls can finish high school and build pathways out of poverty.
Our Mission

Our mission is to effect change by providing our Design Fellows with the skills, networks, and platforms to successfully pursue their passions.

Our Design Fellows acquire the skills they need to excel in an academically rigorous, experiential learning environment energized by creative exchange, real-world experience, and diversity of voice.


We believe in a culture of shared discovery. Our Design Fellows learn by doing, and as emerging peers, are important contributors to the knowledge exchange. We value rigorous investigation, critical thinking, diversity, collaboration, experimentation, and invention.

Creative Excellence

Academic and artistic rigor, creativity, and innovation are bedrock principles of the CU Denver community and the cornerstone of how we define excellence. As champions of inclusive creative excellence, we support risk-taking, intellectual freedom, and social responsibility.


We are committed to learning both inside and outside the classroom. The accessibility, diversity, and cultural energy of Denver make CU Denver a better place to teach, work, and learn. We strive to offer reciprocal experiences to the citizens of this great city and pay it forward by extending our reach and impact in the global community.

Design Horizons Leaders
Theo Edmunds - DH Headshot

Theo Edmonds, JD, MHA, MFA

Theo is a creativity researcher, cultural futurist, artist, wellbeing entrepreneur, data analytics inventor, and transdisciplinary academic. He is currently the Associate Dean for Transdisciplinary Research & Innovation and the Chief Research and Innovation Officer at the College of Arts & Media. In 2020, he also co-founded Underestimated People Of Purpose (UPOP) — a cultural analytics and creativity company that helps companies align their culture change management programs with their innovation agendas.

 Over the past several years, Theo has worked as a PI/co-inventor in the National Science Foundation-sponsored research team of artists, data scientists, and health professionals who created the Cultural Wellbeing Index (CWI). His research is focused on using arts, humanities, and cultural analytics to measure and predict innovation capacity while introducing an entrepreneurial model that moves systems toward full inclusion.

Sarah Engel - DH Headshot

Sarah Engel

Sarah Engel is the Associate Director of Operations at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Denver. Since joining the Center in 2013, Sarah has launched an undergraduate program, redesigned the business competition. and launched a number of co-curricular programs like Design Horizons, the JUMP Incubator and a CU Denver Entrepreneur in Residence.

A large focus for Sarah is to build bridges and networks between students and the Denver metro region. Her favorite initiatives include working with programs like Denver Startup Week, Colorado Student Leaders Institute, and Colorado University Innovations Council. Sarah uses her time outside of the everyday 9 to 5 to continue working with organizations focused on giving back to their communities through the outdoor industry. She is passionate about programs that enable high school students to strive for big futures, stewardship for the outdoor community, and small business initiatives that help the State of Colorado thrive.

Kristin Wood

Kristin L. Wood, PhD, ASME Fellow

Dr. Kristin L. Wood is currently the Senior Associate Dean of Innovation and Engagement at the College of Engineering, Design & Computing (CEDC); Executive Director of the Comcast Media and Technology Center; and Interim Director of Inworks at CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Dr. Wood completed his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Dr. Wood has published more than 550 refereed articles and books (~20,000 citations; h-Index – 62); has received more than 110 awards in design, research, and education; consulted with more than 100 companies (MNCs and SMEs) worldwide; led or mentored over 25 startup companies; and is currently a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Alex Yu - DH Headshot

Alex Yu, EdD

Alex is currently a Senior Director of Student Engagement for two university partnerships at 2U. He completed his MBA concentrating in Entrepreneurship at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his doctorate in Education at Vanderbilt University, the latter of which he was honored with the Distinguished Academic Achievement and Service in Leadership, Policy and Organizations Award. Alex has mentored teams for the JUMP incubator and taught students at the Colorado Student Leaders Institute (COSLI), both through the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship at CU Denver. In his off time, Alex works as a volunteer board member for the Alexander Foundation in Denver, a philanthropic organization caring for the LGBTQ+ community.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Yes. Every fellow receives a $1,000 stipend… and a line on your resume!

No. This is considered co-curricular and not part of your academic schedule.

We will consider an independent credit-bearing option on a case-by-case basis, dependent on your academic unit of record.

The time commitment will average about five to ten hours per week, plus the monthly full-day labs. Note: You’ll be building a functional creative venture prototype with your team. This will require a significant time commitment. As a group, all Fellows will have sessions one Saturday per month from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., as well as weekly check-ins with your team, mentors, and community contacts.

No. We will help you find your tribe and identify your project. It is also OK if you already have a plan and know other CU Denver students who you want on your team. Note: Your team will include Fellows outside of your area of study, even if you already have friends you want to include.

There will be shared lab/meeting space available.

Lifelong networks. A possible creative venture spinoff. Friends and colleagues for life. A community. Skills to do anything you want.

Yes. This program is open to all CU Denver current and incoming undergraduate students, with priority given to CAM, CEDC, and Business School students.

Yes. You’ll receive a non-transcripted credential for your Design Horizons Fellowship.

Any CU Denver student can apply before the deadline, after which interviews will be conducted during the first few weeks of December 2021. All Fellows will be required to sign a participant agreement once selected.

Preference will be given to those who can fully participate. 100% participation is expected.

For more information, please email us at