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The Denver MBA’s inaugural cohort hits the ground running, tackling the kick-off challenge in Daniels’ new 20-month program.

daniels-activation-challenge-2016What do you get when you combine Playdough, popsicle sticks and pure imagination with 50 members of The Denver MBA’s inaugural cohort? A bumper crop of innovative solutions for real issues facing broadcast and cable giant Comcast.

Following several days of “activation” where students bonded through ice breakers, improvisation, ropes courses and other activities at The Nature Place—a leadership development center in Florissant, Colorado—students in The Denver MBA, one of the Daniels College of Business’ newest graduate programs, gathered at the Commons on Champa in downtown Denver. Their goal? To ideate solutions to key problems for sponsor Comcast Wholesale. The culminating event on Sept. 1 set the tone for the 20-month program, which focuses on four core challenges—the Enterprise Challenge, the Social Good Challenge, the Corporate Challenge and the Global Challenge. For the Activation event at Comcast, the cohort was divided into 10 teams; five worked on developing solutions for promoting a digital-first mindset among Comcast customers and employees, while the other five teams worked on developing solutions to build better trust between Comcast and its customers.

“We don’t want to be good, we want to be awesome,” said Skylar Jackson, vice president of Customer Engagement for Comcast, as she presented the challenges to the students. “You’re giving us fresh eyes, ears and input to solve the issues that we see every day, which is a massive value to us.”

This is the second consecutive year Comcast Wholesale has worked with Daniels students, offering them opportunities to work on real world issues that benefit from their brainpower. “Our leadership gets exposed to some of the best and brightest with Daniels’ MBA students,” said Todd Porch, vice president of Comcast’s Wholesale International Division. “We connect, we get some of our problems solved, and we get exposure to an audience that, from a talent perspective, we can look at as potential employees.”

Before breaking off into their teams, the students were welcomed by Erik Mitisek (BSBA 1999), executive director of DU’s Project X-ITE, and one of the visionaries—and entrepreneurs—behind the development of the Commons on Champa, a collaborative, open, accessible space that, in Mitisek’s words, has become a space for entrepreneurs and innovators to “start building the next companies for the state of Colorado.”

Next, students were given a crash course in design thinking by Assistant Professor of Management Aimee Hamilton—a methodology that takes a human-centered approach, focusing on a product’s viability and desirability to the user. The students then set off to interpret their challenges, ideate, run ideas past participating user-testers and finally, to present their solutions. In under two hours, students developed a range of innovations to address Comcast’s challenges, including mobile apps, digital incentives and customizable loyalty programs. Students will capture their solutions in two-page memos to be sent to Comcast for exploration.

“What your ideas did was take the base pain points that we had started to look at through focus groups and surveys, and you elevated it to a level to tell me what we could actually do about it,” said Comcast’s Jackson, noting how inspired she was by the students’ creativity. “You’re helping us go beyond the four walls of the focus group to actually create and drive change. And that’s huge.”

Student Walker Cannon was similarly pleased with the day’s events.

“This week has been great for me,” said Cannon, who is earning her second master’s degree in The Denver MBA, having earned her master’s in Daniels’ Real Estate and the Built Environment program last year. “DU has been an incredibly enriching experience and I wanted to carry that over to more of a generalized degree so that I could pick and choose my trajectory. If today is any indication, The Denver MBA program will give me more personal confidence in the corporate business world.”

For more information about The Denver MBA, visit