The Collegian
Sunday, June 16, 2024

Why I enrolled in UR's innovative Design Thinking course

<p>Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian</p>

Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian

Editor's note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.

My name is Leo, and I’m a first-year with a startup background. When I heard about a great new course offered this spring term called Design Thinking, I knew I wanted to join the class and worried it would fill up. Surely, UR’s creative and innovative Spiders would be all over this. To my great surprise, I landed a spot, and several remain open. I know first-years and sophomores have packed schedules, and this course is new, but it’s a great opportunity.

Design Thinking is a one-credit class offered by the Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Initiative (CIE) that will meet this spring from 3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It will teach students how to create value-driven organizations with desirability, feasibility and viability. It will also help bring students’ ideas to life for nonprofits and for-profit businesses in local and global contexts. I hope everyone reading this will consider adding this hidden gem to their schedule. Here’s why: the mentorship, the students and the opportunities abroad.

The mentorship.

Geof Hammond, who will teach the course, has spent over 20 years in consumer packaged goods with expertise in brand strategy, product positioning and new product development. Alongside Hammond are Somiah Lattimore and Andrew Ilnicki. Ilnicki is a former director of digital innovation at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Lattimore, in her short time at UR, co-founded BenchTop Innovations and raised $1 million for innovation programming. 

As leaders of the CIE initiative, Lattimore and Ilnicki will provide outside programming and resources. In the short time I’ve known them, both have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to student success, whether driving for hours to cheer on UR students at pitch competitions or staying late into the night to help student teams improve their slide decks.

The students. 

Beyond the mentorship, the future classmates are deeply passionate. First-year Will Conway will take Design Thinking this spring as he works on his business SilentZone, a silencer pad for your phone to help improve concentration and reduce distractions. Conway is thrilled to work with Lattimore and Ilnicki. 

“Talking with [Lattimore] about my business ideas has been one of the highlights of my time here at Richmond,” Conway said. 

Sophomore Ayush Garg, who will also take Design Thinking this spring, won the $5,000 grand prize for his startup AnswerThis at the Accelerate Investor Conference pitch competition in Washington D.C., two weeks ago. AnswerThis is an AI-powered tool to uncover knowledge buried deep within academia and make it available to all. 

Senior Daniela Valderrama Avila will also take the course and work on her concept LinguaCity — an app that helps native Spanish speakers stay connected to their language and culture. If you already have ideas, Design Thinking will be a great place to flesh them out. 

Life abroad. 

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Thanks to the CIE, UR will name up to 10 UR Innovation Fellows starting this year. To begin the Richmond Innovation Fellows process, register for Design Thinking and submit an application. If accepted, you will go to Portugal for three free weeks of entrepreneurship programming this summer. Once in Porto, the group will join cohorts from other selective universities at the European Innovation Academy (EIA). There, they will design, incubate, and pitch startup ideas to Amazon, Microsoft and Google innovation leaders. CIE covers airfare, housing, meals and EIA’s’ program fee – entirely separate from the Richmond Guarantee. 

I am excited to apply the entrepreneurial mindset and skills from Design Thinking to real-world problems. I hope you consider joining because the more creative and diverse our viewpoints in the class, the better our ideas will be. While the class is available through open registration, the fellowship application closes on Nov. 26.

Who knows, maybe this summer you or I will have your billion-dollar idea while eating pastel de nata on a cloudless day looking out on the Iberian countryside.

Contact opinions writer Leo Barnes at

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