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Student Experiences

Revolutionizing the Innovation Experience

Four students walk into a room: a chemical engineer, statistician, computer scientist, and business strategist. It might sound like the beginning of a gag, but bringing together savvy students from a variety of disciplines is what the Marriott School’s Crocker Innovation Fellowship is all about.

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Started in 2012, the program takes twenty students through a yearlong immersive experience with innovation. The fellows study the latest thinking in entrepreneurship during winter semester, complete an internship with an innovative company over spring and summer, and then develop and market their own products and services in the fall.

The program’s strength is its interdisciplinary nature: BYU students from any area of study can apply, and the fellowship’s professors represent five disciplines—business, life sciences, engineering, computer science, and law.

“This program is on the cutting edge of what education has to become,” says Nathan Furr, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Marriott School, who developed the program based on his experience teaching in the Mayfield Fellows program at Stanford University.

“Eventually companies were clamoring to hire a Mayfield Fellow,” Furr says. “I hope we can start to build that kind of momentum here.”

For Matthew Henningson, a finance major, participation in the Crocker Innovation Fellowship rerouted his path from dentistry to business. “That was one of the best decisions of my life,” Henningson says of his career switch. “Since then I have been involved in the nitty-gritty of five start-ups and have loved every minute of it.”

Currently, Henningson and several other Crocker Fellows are developing Cherubim Security, a home security system designed with renters in mind. And that’s just one of many innovations coming out of the 2013 fellowship. Also on the list are SnipStory, a new way to compile your personal history; rock climbing grips for your shower; and an updated wheelchair.

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The Crocker Innovation Fellows are bright, determined, and serious about diving headfirst into entrepreneurship.
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Though the program doesn’t measure success by the number of start-ups, these ventures aren’t taken lightly. Owlet Baby Monitors took flight from last year’s program, winning Harvard’s International Business Model Competition and pulling in more than $200,000 from supporters.

The students’ initial prototypes are made possible by funding from Gary Crocker, the fellowship’s namesake and a model of innovative entrepreneurship himself. In addition to helping match fellows with summer internships, he established a scholarship to help students fully dedicate themselves to the program.

“Participating in the Crocker Fellowship has been a baptism by entrepreneurial fire,” says Wade Anderson, a computer science senior who is working on both Cherubim and SnipStory. “While the expectations are high, the studying intense, and the workload grueling, the scholarship provided me with the resources to work on these microbusinesses.”

As the Crocker Innovation Fellowship begins its third year, the next twenty fellows are lining up for an experience that truly innovates. And that’s no joke.


Written by Katie Pitts Olson