Daniels graduate students get a jump start on the academic year with a live business challenge from Comcast.

Classes are just beginning but 78 students from the full-time Denver MBA, part-time Professional MBA and MS Marketing programs at the Daniels College of Business have already been put to the test. Their task? To brainstorm and offer innovative business solutions that help Comcast enhance its overall customer experience.

To do this, the students met with representatives from Comcast—the global cable and broadcasting company—on Sept. 5 at The Commons on Champa in downtown Denver to discuss the challenge: leverage artificial intelligence technologies to improve user engagement.

To help them tackle this, Comcast offered related materials for the students to read ahead of time, and gave them the chance to ask questions of the company’s staff. Then, Aimee Hamilton, assistant professor of Management at Daniels, provided the students with an overview of design thinking—a solution-focused approach to innovation that puts the human (or in this case, Comcast’s customers) at the forefront.

The students then broke into teams and began brainstorming solutions. They were encouraged to write down every idea (no matter how crazy) on a sticky note. Once the sticky notes blanketed the walls, the students began building their prototypes for user-testers to observe and analyze. Not long after, they presented their solutions to the Comcast team.

“I was blown away by how much everyone was able to do in such a short period of time,” said Denver MBA student Marisa Midyet. “It was great to work on real problems. [In this program] we are not just focusing on academics, we are focusing on what we want to do long term.”

Rob Roybal, a recent graduate of The Denver MBA, saw firsthand how experiential projects like this can be beneficial in the long term. Roybal, who now works as a financial analyst at Comcast Spotlight—the organization’s advertising sales arm—participated in a similar challenge with Comcast when he was a Daniels student and upon graduation, accepted a position with the company. “The Denver MBA was a transformative experience for me,” Roybal said. “Having the opportunity to work with real companies to solve actual business challenges not only enhanced what we learned in the classroom, but it also helped me build my network and secure a position at Comcast Spotlight.”

Daniels graduate students have had the opportunity to explore, ideate and present solutions to address real business issues for Comcast for the last three years. In return, Comcast gleans new ideas and perspectives that representatives can bring back to headquarters for further review.

“They give us wonderful insights to take back that continue to bolster the innovation within the company,” said Skylar Jackson, vice president of Customer Engagement at Comcast, of Daniels students. “Being able to continue to learn from them and draw off of their energy to build and create new things, really does send us back to headquarters with a whole new perspective.”

When asked if the students’ ideas had been implemented in the past, Jackson said, “[Last year], one of the teams came up with an advertising campaign around the customer experience and we were able to implement some ideas from that into an existing campaign that was on the air.”

The day ended with a networking reception on the fifth-floor balcony of the Comcast Spotlight building in downtown Denver. With the sun setting on Coors Field in the background, the students engaged in lively conversations with one another, and their energy and excitement for what lies ahead seemed infectious. “Going into today, I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Midyet. “This has made me really excited about my classmates, as well as the faculty and staff. This is going to be very high-touch program. [At Daniels], you are not a number.”

For more information about the graduate programs at Daniels, visit daniels.du.edu/programs.