This year marks a decade of the BYU Crocker Innovation Fellowship program, hosted by BYU Marriott. Teamwork is at the heart of the program, which is designed to be a transformative innovation experience for students from any major across campus.
“Our goal is to create an army of lifelong innovators who change the world,” says Nile Hatch, an associate professor of entrepreneurship at BYU Marriott, who has been involved with the program from its inception. “The one-year program is set up as two courses taught by professors from different colleges across campus, along with an internship that is related to the student’s specific major as well as to innovation.”
The two-semester fellowship begins during winter semester with an introduction to interdisciplinary innovation and entrepreneurship; the following fall semester, students have the opportunity to work in teams to execute and commercialize their innovation. “The commercialization step is essential,” Hatch explains. “For an innovation to impact people’s lives, which is our focus, it has to reach those people.”
The teams generally include one student from each of several key majors, including coding, management, strategy, and entrepreneurship as well as mechanical, electrical, or industrial design engineering. Interested students from other majors also participate. Students meet once a week in the classroom; in addition, faculty members meet with two teams every week for individual design reviews.
“That approach allows for specific, personal mentoring and affords an opportunity to give advice, ask questions, and provide the specific support each team needs,” says Hatch. The program has produced a host of ideas, many of which have evolved into full-blown companies, including Owlet, Novi, and Portal. This year, teams have created devices that water plants, feed dogs and cats, and monitor how many pickleball players are on a court at any one time, just to name a few.
“I’ve learned so much from this program, but one of the biggest lessons has been the importance of teamwork,” says Sydney Olson, who graduated in December 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurial management. “I’ve learned how to work with people who don’t always think the same as I do. I just accepted a job as a product analyst, and it was 100 percent because of the Crocker program that I was offered the job. This program was hands down the best thing I’ve done at BYU.”
This story was published in BYU Marriott's 2022 Annual Report.