Connor Bolick

Connor Bolick photo

The Design and Entrepreneurship Network’s (The DEN) Connor Bolick spent his spring and summer semesters in Singapore in search of innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E). Bolick, a junior computer engineering major, traveled to Asia as part of a Clemson University Exchange Program and took classes at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The courses will be applied toward the completion of his Clemson degree.

Prior to his departure, he was named a University Innovation Fellow, and he used his international experience to take an inventory of NTU’s student I&E ecosystem. “I am so thankful that Clemson has programs like The DEN,” said Bolick. He joined in fall 2014 and has contributed to the development of a number of special events, such as the 3-Day Start-up Weekend and the University Innovation Fellows regional meet-up.

“The entrepreneurship mentality that I experienced abroad was much less student-inclusive and had more of an adversarial and short-sighted approach,” he said. “It was profit first, people second. Programs like The DEN provide a mentored approach to student-inclusive entrepreneurship and allow students and faculty to develop their business ideas with a community of mentors. I am so appreciative to be a part of The DEN, and I look forward to seeing what we can produce this fall!”

Ashton Harvey

Ashton Harvey photoAshton Harvey initially chose the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, because of its partnership with Clemson’s marketing department. Upon further research, however, she was elated to find that they were chosen as the United Kingdom’s Entrepreneurial University of the Year in 2014 for their outstanding I&E culture.

Harvey was thrown into that culture the minute she enrolled in her Strathclyde classes. Every class featured collaboration and networking with inspiring Scottish entrepreneurs. For a class about service businesses, a young Scottish motor group sponsored a class-wide contest and assignment to create the next big thing in the automotive sales industry. Another class brought in a marketing team to discuss how the regeneration of Glasgow and other once-industrial cities (such as Greenville, S.C., and other places in the Southeast) depend on innovative solutions and new enterprises to keep the city growing.

One of those innovative solutions is Strathclyde’s newly-opened Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC). The TIC is a state-of-the-art building designed for academia and industry collaboration. She was able to walk through the building, and realized that all of the investments and construction going into new I&E buildings at Clemson are time and money well spent. Clemson University is not the only school doing it; the competition is worldwide.

But with entrepreneurship, there is always a fine line between competition and collaboration. All Strathclyde students and alumni have the opportunity to collaborate and join the Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network, or as they like to abbreviate it, SEN. (Sound familiar?)

Harvey thoroughly enjoyed my time abroad, but she also loved receiving emails and updates about The DEN and all the great things they accomplished last semester. “The DEN has seen such growth and forward momentum within the last year, she said. “I can’t wait to get back and be a part of all that is to come.”

Bre Przestrzelski

“It doesn’t matter if you are designing a new medical device or redesigning the Monday-morning experience, design thinking is everywhere,” said Bre Przestrzelski, student co-founder of The DEN, as she explained to her airplane seat neighbor when he asked “What is design-thinking?”

Bre Przestrzelski photoPrzestrzelski was selected as one of two students to help facilitate the first Youth Technopreneurship Program Design-Thinking Workshop in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada this past August. She joined Meenu Singh of the University of Maryland’s Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Leticia Britos Cavagnaro of Stanford University’s to bring I&E design-thinking concepts to faculty, students and community members of the entire province of Alberta.

Przestrzelski, Clemson University’s first University Innovation Fellow (UIF), says that this is one of the most exciting opportunities that UIF has afforded her, which is saying quite a lot considering the competing opportunities include prototyping trips to Google, annual and regional UIF meet-ups in Palo Alto and Washington, D.C., and student panels at the American Society for Engineering Education in Seattle (which included a personal tour of Microsoft). But Bre said she believes that this opportunity is something special. “The UIF movement is rooted in making positive change wherever you go,” she said. “I am truly honored to be able to say that I am a part of spreading this movement internationally for the first time in the UIF program.”

Excited to return to the states with a greater understanding of what design thinking looks like internationally, Bre will bring a new perspective to her work in The DEN this fall, so no matter their language, background, or major, all DEN students can find a way to answer the question, “What is design-thinking?”… together.

Justin Shaw

Justin Shaw photoToday, if you ask Justin Shaw, a bioengineering senior at Clemson University, why he chose to spend his spring break working for a healthcare startup in greater New York, he would say, “I had to be sure.”

Last December, Justin was weighing how to spend his summer. Initially he was attracted to a co-op at Ethicon, a Johnson and Johnson Company, with assets of over $121 billion, according to a Bloomberg release in 2013. This opportunity seemed like an easy choice. Ethicon has stability and monetary prowess, but that was not what Justin was seeking; he wanted the value of his summer to be experiential and opportunistic.

The DEN was one of the first places on campus Justin had an opportunity for real-world experience. Through his involvement in The DEN, he developed skills in writing business models and analyzing markets. He traveled to Cambridge, MA, to explore market validation and discovery. He competed in the South Carolina Biotechnology Industry Organization’s  pitch competition in Charleston, S.C. He helped facilitate startup weekends at Clemson, and he met with successful entrepreneurs and industry experts at The DEN’s weekly meetings. The DEN exposed Justin to new opportunities, and he wanted to build on what he’d learned.

So for a week in March, he traveled to greater New York to see if he could learn as much working for a startup as he had in The DEN. Associated Medical, the startup Justin selected, is exploring opportunities in the digital healthcare sector. After the week, he returned to Clemson sure he had made the right decision. He got hooked on working directly with the CEO drafting business plans and attending Health DataPalooza, where he listened to keynotes like Bruce Broussard, CEO of Humana, and Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box.

Justin returns to The DEN this fall as Clemson’s newest University Innovation Fellow candidate. He’s excited about providing other students with new opportunities and experiences that will change their world as well.