Eleven CU-Boulder Faculty, Staff Teams Offered Entrepreneurship Awards

Ask University of Colorado Boulder faculty and staff for entrepreneurial project proposals and they will deliver.

Eleven teams of CU-Boulder faculty and staff from across campus have been offered seed funding, ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 each, after a call went out in September for applications. The 11 awards granted are out of 26 total submittals.

The cross-campus Entrepreneurship Initiative steering committee selected the awardees and is administering the funding with assistance from CU-Boulder’s Silicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado Law School.

The seed grants are meant to encourage entrepreneurial initiative and to inspire faculty and staff to take risks and develop new projects, particularly those that involve collaboration across schools and departments on campus. Dan Caruso, chairman and CEO of Zayo — a bandwidth infrastructure services provider — as well as successful entrepreneur, provided generous support for the initiative.

“The breadth of innovative ideas and expertise from CU-Boulder faculty and staff when they are presented a problem-solving opportunity is vast and impressive,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. “With their entrepreneurial mindsets and interdisciplinary missions, our faculty and staff are not only advancing the campus but also study in their fields.”

The application leaders and their projects include:

    • Francy Milner/Susan Clarke (business/political science): A model for CU-Boulder undergraduates to work collaboratively and entrepreneurially to address social and environmental problems.


    • Michael Theodore (music): The development of open-source hardware and software designs for technology-driven public art installations such as those that are found in airports. Such art installations involving sensors, motors and lights, for example, can have implications for assistive technology as well.


    • Don Grant (sociology): Creation of the first social entrepreneurship program for Colorado health care professionals with the goal of establishing a statewide network of experiential labs to train undergraduates to be “patient navigators” who guide clients to basic resources for good health like food, housing and heating assistance, lowering hospital readmission rates.


    • Erick Mueller (business): An initiative to broaden and strengthen the teaching of entrepreneurship across campus.


    • Al Smith and Morley McBride (business): A boot camp to help students learn “design thinking,” which entails inspiration through empathy, creative ideation and iterative design cycles utilizing quick prototypes and user feedback. Students will discover an innovative, human-centered approach to problem solving that they can apply throughout life to academic, entrepreneurial or personal pursuits.


    • Rebecca Komarek (Catalyze CU/Idea Forge/engineering): The building of resources at CU-Boulder to further foster research commercialization and local industry collaboration, providing students with a strong understanding of a disciplined approach to entrepreneurship and innovation.


    • Richard Han (computer science): Strengthening an existing computer science capstone course, incorporating biweekly micro-pitch competitions and student-led peer investments to mature student product development and entrepreneurship savvy.


    • Kathy Ramirez-Aguilar (CU Green Labs): A campus website to transfer furniture and lab equipment from departments with surplus to departments in need, reducing costs and diverting waste.


    • Lupita Montoya (engineering): The integration of entrepreneurship principles focusing on the needs of Latino and Native American communities in an existing sustainable design course taught in a Residential Academic Program, expanding the course offering to all majors.


    • Sharon Matusik (business): The formation of a national conference at CU-Boulder exploring new hybrid organizations — such as accelerators, crowdsourcing and funding platforms — and entrepreneurship.


  • Melissa Hart (law): Developing a plan for the creation of Colorado’s first modest-means law firm incubator enabling new lawyers to acquire the skills necessary to launch their own successful practices and offer legal services at affordable rates.

Beyond their application leaders, many of the projects involve interdisciplinary faculty, staff and students from environmental studies, the ATLAS Institute, the College of Media, Communication and Information and other units across campus, as well as community organizations such as the Spark Boulder co-working space and Naropa University.

“Entrepreneurial and interdisciplinary problem-solving skills are critical for all professionals,” said Phil Weiser, executive director of the Silicon Flatirons Center and dean of Colorado Law. “The creative and impressive proposals supported by this initiative underscore how CU-Boulder is a fertile ground for developing and utilizing such skills across the university. Our collaborative spirit and tremendous entrepreneurial community provide us with an opportunity to do something really special in this area.”

For more information, including news, resources and events, visit the new CU-Boulder entrepreneurship website at http://www.colorado.edu/entrepreneurship/.

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