MBA and marketing classes take advantage of unique DU resource

The University of Denver’s Kennedy Mountain Campus (KMC) sits on 720 acres of wilderness, adjacent to the Roosevelt National Forest. About a two-hour drive from Denver, the KMC is intended to be a refuge from the urban atmosphere—a place where all students can lean into DU’s 4D Experience, which emphasizes leadership development, physical and mental growth, and artistic expression.

This spring, for the first time, Daniels College of Business classes traveled to the KMC for hands-on, memorable outdoor experiences.

MBA Cohort “Clips Out” 

In celebration of all they had achieved during the Denver MBA program, Cohort 6 explored the outdoors with a lighthearted scavenger hunt. Teams of four students wandered the KMC’s trails, snapping photos of prescribed items: a snowman, a large pinecone, the lake, a grove of aspen trees and more.

Three students walk down a snowy hill under a blue sky

Students from Denver MBA Cohort 6 explore the Kennedy Mountain Campus on a light-hearted scavenger hunt.

Two men look over trail maps

MBA faculty Lowell Valencia-Miller, right, and Michael Myers prepare to hand trail maps to their students.

“The oak-trimmed college campus can only give you so much casual relaxation,” said Megan Reilly, director of MBA global and experiential learning. “When you’re up in the mountains taking photos of tiny snowmen and tasked with looking around and exploring the natural world, I just think it’s a really different environment and it does bring out those more personal connections.”

Photo looking through trees at four students walking on a hiking trail

The MBA scavenger hunt encouraged students to hike the KMC’s trails in search of the property’s lake and other landmarks.

Before they start their program, every Daniels MBA student takes a trip to The Nature Place, where they commit to the program—and each other—in a “clip-in” ceremony. A carabiner symbolizes the need for a diverse team and the importance of supporting one another as they begin their journey. Each student’s carabiner is color coordinated to match their profile on Insights Discovery—a tool to help professionals understand how they communicate; recognize what motivates them; discover their strengths and weaknesses; and understand how they make decisions.

Piles of red, blue, green and yellow carabiners

Carabiners correspond to the color of each student’s Insights Discovery profile, which assesses strengths, weaknesses and styles of communication.

In April, the cohort reached the summit. In front of the KMC’s rock wall, suspending a rope with their carabiners, each graduating student shared what they will bring with them into their careers. They unclipped from the rope, but held on to their piece of Daniels-branded climbing equipment. Students may not have the same goals or ambitions as their peers, but they will always carry their Denver MBA experience with them, said Lowell Valencia-Miller, assistant dean of MBA programs.

“I think one of the commonalities among my DMBA cohort is the love of the outdoors,” said Katie Richmond. “It was a special moment to be together in a natural environment and experience the symbolism and reflection of the clip out.”

MBA students stand in a circle in a gymnasium, in front of a rock wall, holding a rope

The MBA class holds a rope with their carabiners, preparing to “clip out” at the Kennedy Mountain Campus.

A student holds a Daniels at DU carabiner on a rope with other MBA students in the background

“Clipping in” represents support as MBA students climb through a rigorous program. “Clipping out” symbolizes the completion of their journey and transition to the professional world.

Marketing class studies ESG outdoors

Cristin Cornell Tarr has been intrigued by the KMC since the University announced its acquisition in 2021. With a background in outdoor education, she knew the property’s potential.

“I believe really strongly in experiential learning,” said Tarr, a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Marketing. “As faculty, it’s really important to embrace any [of those] opportunities we have.”

Last June, Tarr applied for a grant to support her brand-new course, customer experience management, which she designed around a trip to the KMC. (“You can’t teach an experience class without an experience!” she said.)

Over the course of a weekend, 21 undergraduate and three graduate students took part in a human-centered design workshop, focused on the environmental and social impact that companies and brands can make.

Cristin Tarr’s customer experience management class traveled to the Kennedy Mountain Campus in April 2023.

The itinerary began with small-group discussions about “caring for our Earth” through environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices. Four professionals from Slalom Consulting joined the class at the KMC, providing expertise, guiding discussions and soaking up suggestions from Gen Z consumers.

After an afternoon hike, the class reconvened to design gadgets for Gen Z under the theme “repurpose, recycle, reuse.” That evening, they pitched their products as they ate marshmallows and s’mores.

Students were asked to create a product, targeted at Gen Z, under the theme “repurpose, recycle, reuse.”

“Slalom provided top-notch insights and guidance, and the participating students were super creative and talented and produced some great presentations,” said Richmond, the MBA student, who also spent the weekend assisting the undergrad class. “The students are working on a [separate] project for a Denver client and this workshop helped them define their vision and core recommendations.”

That client, Snarf’s Sandwiches, was the focus of Day 2 at the KMC. Students brainstormed ways to “improve the world around us, one sandwich at a time,” before presenting their recommendations a la “Shark Tank,” ABC’s hit entrepreneurship show.

“A really rewarding experience” 

As the bus pulled away from the KMC, bound for Denver, Tarr reflected on what she described as a spectacular and meaningful experience—one she wants to replicate every spring for the foreseeable future. Studying how the business world treats stakeholders (the environment among them) is much more powerful offsite, she said. (Students agreed, leaving glowing comments on Tarr’s LinkedIn post.)

“When you’re sitting in the classroom, you’re very student focused; you’re taking notes, you’re hearing a lecture, you’re going through a process,” she said. “When you remove them from that opportunity and have them explore the world when they’re actually sitting in it, it’s really transformative. You can’t replace a student having discovered something about themselves and how they’re going to enter the business world with a different lens.”

MBA students and staff see the potential too. They said their day at the KMC was a snapshot of what the campus is meant to be.

“KMC and the [new] Leadership in Outdoor Recreation Industry (LORI) program are two of DU’s key differentiators,” Richmond said. “The outdoor and rec industry is vital to Colorado. Not only does it represent business and professional opportunities for many, but it also represents a core value of DU, which I believe is the preservation and enjoyment of the outdoors. KMC represents a significant opportunity for DU to be a connector and uniter in this space.”

Debora Rocha and Davis Mawer, two students in Tarr’s customer experience management class, created a video recap of their weekend at the KMC.