National Louis University to launch new, hands-on M.S. Program in Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship

The program aims to train a new generation of equity-minded business leaders by promoting women’s entrepreneurship.

In the Fall semester of 2020, National Louis University will launch a brand new Master of Science program in Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship. Aiming to capitalize on the recent growth of women-owned businesses and start-ups, particularly among African American and Latina women, while also recognizing that significant gaps in funding and opportunities continue to exist between female business owners and their male counterparts, the curriculum, experience, and activities of the program will be geared specifically toward women’s entrepreneurship.

The program distinguishes itself by emphasizing a human-centered approach to innovation, encouraging students to develop a deep understanding of users, thinking broadly about problems, and recognizing the value in the contributions of others. The curriculum also focuses on both design thinking and business acumen, blending analytical skills, collaboration, problem solving skills, and creative thinking to develop solutions and opportunities for new ventures. Workshops, presentations, and networking opportunities will be available for students to hear from leaders in the field and begin to grow their business network and relationships with investors throughout the program. But most significantly, each student will be paired with an individual business mentor who will guide and work with the student throughout the program.

 “We are absolutely thrilled to be launching our new program focused on women’s entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Lynessa Rico, the director of the new program. “We have designed a remarkable program focused on combining both design thinking and entrepreneurial education. In addition, we are proud of our exclusive partnerships with some of the key players in Chicago’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, such as Future Founders and DyMynd Angels.”

“We are honored and excited to be the first university partner with DyMynd Angels,” Rico added.

DyMynd Angels is Chicago’s only female-focused initiative run by women and specifically working to promote angel investment opportunities for women-led startups. The group’s primary goal is to elevate the entire female entrepreneurial ecosystem, empowering female funders to get involved in the entrepreneurial space and disrupting the way in which female entrepreneurs access capital.

With the growing competiveness of digital and global economies, entrepreneurship scholars and practitioners have increasingly called for design-thinking concepts and design methodologies to assist with entrepreneurial teaching and new venture creation. Research has provided substantial support for the further development of entrepreneurship and business programs particularly by integrating design thinking.  Thus, entrepreneurship education is a key beneficiary of design thinking.

The establishment of such a program is timely. Women’s entrepreneurship has risen globally, nationally, and locally in the past several years with the largest growth in female founders specifically among African American and Latina women. The city of Chicago has the largest concentration of women-owned start-ups in the country. In addition, Chicago has the largest concentration of female-focused investors. However, female founders still encounter many challenges including, gender bias, access to funding, lower perception of capabilities, financial education, and limited coaching. NLU hopes to help educate and support students in overcoming these common barriers in women’s entrepreneurship through the launch of the MS Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship Program in Fall 2020.