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Applications open for fall 2021 cohort of new learning-by-doing master’s degree in innovation

student in classroom speaking to woman via telecommunication

Daniel Mariotti, a current student in the MSIVD program, conducting a research interview in one of the conference rooms in the 777 Tower at the Novus Innovation Corridor.

December 02, 2020

Have you dreamed of starting your own business? Are you obsessed with the idea of making the world a better place? Are you impatient for progress? Do you have a great idea, but don’t know where to start?

Arizona State University’s new one-year Master of Science in Innovation and Venture Development may be just the place for you. The program was launched in fall 2020 as a transdisciplinary partnership between the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Though applications are accepted at any time, Jan. 15 is the priority deadline for the upcoming fall session.

“This experience is for people who want to make their own opportunities,” said Cheryl Heller, director of design integration, a joint position among the business, engineering and design schools. Heller, who joined ASU in 2019, leads the program. Author of "The Intergalactic Design Guide: Harnessing the Creative Potential of Social Design," Heller is internationally recognized as a business strategist and leader in design thinking. 

“People talk about design as problem-solving,” Heller said. “But that’s a limited view. The most exciting aspect of design is its capacity for creating conditions that have never existed before. We need that now. We need to create new ways of being on this planet, and with each other. Design is the process for accomplishing that.”

COVID-19 has sparked urgent and obvious needs for new forms of communication, collaboration, sanitation, testing and health care, research and just daily living. “The pandemic has certainly changed the definition of economic opportunity and personal satisfaction,” said Heller. “You can wait for jobs to become available or you can create your own path.” 

The program is a single year “studio” program that is open to motivated students with any undergraduate degree. During the program students create their own venture. Graduates acquire both the expert and soft skills needed to think across complex systems, lead multidisciplinary teams, identify needs, evaluate opportunities and create and launch-scalable business models that provide value to all stakeholders in a world of growing uncertainty and ambiguity. The students also learn the “soft skills” of entrepreneurship — high-performance teamwork, ethics and leadership.

The inaugural cohort includes recent graduates from ASU and across the world, but also career professionals who have a vision for a different future. Undergrad degrees include psychology, communication, film, media study, economics, engineering, business and information technology, among others.

“What I love about this program is that it’s real. It’s the real world,” said Grady Gaugler, who is currently a student in the program. Gaugler, who earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from ASU, wasn’t sure he wanted to pursue a master’s degree. “School alone isn’t what I am looking for. I am looking for experience.” 

“I have a passion for design. I love engineering – and business is the key to getting things done in this world,” he said. "When I saw that this program brought all three elements together, I knew it was for me.” Gaugler is currently partnering with another student to explore opportunities for advancing applications of solar energy. “I’m a firm believer that solar can power 100% of the world,” he said. “It’s stuck in a trench right now. We should have a circular economy around this green solution.” 

Heller is joined by a roster of superstars – both from ASU’s ranks and from the entrepreneurial world outside the university. Partnering with Heller is Brent Sebold, faculty lead for the Fulton Schools of Engineering and director of Entrepreneurship + Innovation at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and liaison for the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute. Students will have access to mentors, advisers and funders – representing some of the world’s most successful design thinkers and entrepreneurs. 

The program was launched with a gift from Tom Prescott, an alumnus of ASU and the former CEO of Align, the company that produces the Invisalign straightening system for teeth. Prescott has been involved in entrepreneurship at ASU for several years through the Tom Prescott Student Venture Fund.

“The project has to block out the sun — it has to be that important to advance itself," said Prescott. “The idea is to make this experience as realistic as possible.”

“We want diversity – real diversity – of interests, experience, culture. We want designers and nondesigners alike. You need to be creative and visual. And we want people to have fun on top of all that,” said Heller.

The degree has a STEM certification, which activates additional financial aid for students who are veterans and also allows international students to stay an extra year to get work experience.

To learn more about the Master of Science in Innovation and Venture Development program, please contact Jackie Collens at or 480-727-1865. A full schedule of introductory webinars is also available.

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