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

December 2, 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. 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. Download Full Image

“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.

ASU grad's childhood interest evolves into passion for conservation

December 2, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

While many children grew up watching cartoons, a young Katherine Amari was obsessing over Animal Planet, National Geographic, the Discovery Channel and finding every opportunity to share fun biology facts with her friends and family. Katherine Amari Katherine Amari is graduating this fall with her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with a concentration in conservation biology and ecology from the School of Life Sciences as well as a certificate in sustainable food systems from the College of Global Futures. Download Full Image

“I’m sure my parents thought it was a phase, but as I got older and started learning about topics like habitat destruction and climate change, it manifested into a passion for conservation,” Amari said.

This fall, Amari will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with a concentration in conservation biology and ecology from the School of Life Sciences as well as a certificate in Sustainable Food Systems from the College of Global Futures. She is also a recipient of Arizona State University’s Moeur Award.

Amari describes her college experience as smooth sailing, that is until April 2020 when she began experiencing strange medical symptoms. She spent the next five months visiting with different specialists trying to figure out what was wrong.

“Even after several procedures and medications, none of my doctors could figure out what was wrong. Being in and out of doctors’ offices every week and dealing with my symptoms made it difficult to get any schoolwork done,” she said. “It was a really stressful time in my life, especially with the pandemic and adjusting to virtual learning.”

In September, Amari was diagnosed with a chronic pain condition.

“At this point, I wanted to give up and accept that my symptoms would never go away, but at the encouragement of my family, I continued my search for help and eventually found a physical therapist who specialized in my condition. Since then, I have slowly gotten better and was able to persevere and finish my degree with a 4.0 GPA.”

Amari credits her support system for helping her persevere and reach her goals.

“I really just want to thank my family, friends, and professors for supporting me on this journey,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Amari shares more about her journey through ASU.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: My mom is an ASU alumna and my older brother was already attending ASU when I was deciding my path for college. I knew I wanted to live at home to save money for my future, and ASU offered me an excellent scholarship, so it was an easy choice for me to make. I’m so happy I got to stay in Arizona, this state will always have my heart.

Q: You’re continuing on to get your master’s degree through The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' 4+1 accelerated degree program, what made you decide to pursue that path?

A: It was a really last-minute decision, to be honest. It was the summer before my junior year, and my adviser mentioned that I was on track to graduate early and that I would be a good candidate for the 4+1 program, but that I needed to find a professor willing to have me work in their lab and take me on as a master’s student. After interviewing with several different professors, I decided to work in Dr. Heather Throop’s Drylands in a Changing Environment lab. Because I really enjoyed working in her lab and she was so enthusiastic about her work, I knew it was a good fit. My research will focus on how climate change, specifically increasing rainfall variability, alters the interaction between dryland soils and soil amendments. I’m really interested in how land management strategies can help mitigate the effects of climate change in drylands, especially since drylands play such an important role in our agricultural system.

Q: What’s something you learned while at The College — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: When I was enrolled in an environmental ethics course I was surprised to find that, even among other scientists, opinions on how to solve conservation-related problems differed greatly. Ethics is a particularly difficult subject to navigate because people are guided by different sets of values and morals. Initially, it was frustrating that not everyone agreed with my point of view, but in hearing other’s opinions and arguments, my perspective changed a lot. It was a really eye-opening experience.

Q: How did scholarships impact your experience?

A: I worked really hard to maintain a perfect GPA in high school and to score well on my SAT so that I would qualify for the New American University President’s Award at ASU. I am so grateful that ASU awarded me this scholarship. Without it, I would have had to take out loans to pay for my tuition, which would have been unimaginably stressful. With my tuition paid for, I was able to save the money I made at work, which allowed me to consider opportunities like studying abroad.

Q: Were there any clubs or organizations that positively impacted your ASU experience?

A: I am a member of the clubs Nature at ASU and the Central Arizona Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology. These clubs provided a great opportunity to meet like-minded, supportive people who were in the same major as me. The club members offered great advice and resources and I learned a lot from them. It was an amazing community to be a part of. This semester, I also had the opportunity to be a Nature Guides peer mentor, and I was able to meet with freshman and sophomore students in this major to provide resources and guidance. It was a really rewarding experience.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU and what was the lesson?

A: I took a really interesting field course with Dr. Matt Chew about introduced species. In every single biology course I’d taken previously, I was taught that “invasive” species are detrimental to ecosystem health and threaten biodiversity. Dr. Chew’s class changed my perspective on that. He taught me to research ideas for myself instead of taking what others say at face value, even if those others are professors or scientists. He showed me that there is always another lens to view problems through, and that the best problem solvers are those who consider every perspective.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: First, don’t be too hard on yourself. College is important, but it’s OK to get a C on an exam. It’s OK to procrastinate occasionally. It’s OK to take the time to make memories and to have fun. Work hard and always do your best, but don’t ever feel like your best isn’t good enough, because it is. Second, get involved! ASU has so many opportunities for research, internships, clubs and organizations, volunteer positions, you name it. The sooner you get involved in everything ASU has to offer, the sooner you can begin building a community and setting yourself up for success.

Q: How has The College prepared you for your future goals and/or career path?

A: The College provided many opportunities for networking, resources to search for internships and jobs, a wide variety of courses so I could explore my interests, and mentors and advisers to counsel me along the way. Any time I had a concern or question, The College had the answers I needed.

Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences