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Carthage graduates first cohort of Business Design and Innovation program

For 14 years, Mr. Devin Sutherland coordinated a multifaceted effort to develop and revitalize downtown Racine. Yet advancing in that field would have required him to uproot his family, and they were determined to stay.

To expand his skill set, Mr. Sutherland enrolled in the first cohort of Carthage College’s graduate program in business design and innovation (BDI) in fall 2017. Ten months later, he became one of its inaugural graduates.

Students take a mix of foundational business courses and specialized design and innovation courses. They also participate in 11 weekend workshops, led by experts with practical knowledge from organizations like Google and SC Johnson.

“It’s always someone who has been there or is still doing it today,” Mr. Sutherland says.

Design thinking equips alumni/ae to lead cross-functional teams and craft creative solutions to complex problems. Carthage professor Jennifer Madden, the program director, says the strategies can be applied to the private, nonprofit, and government sectors.

“I didn’t realize how relevant my graphic design degree was going to be in this program,” says Ms. Becca Krahn of Caledonia, a 2018 BDI graduate who completed her undergraduate studies at Carthage in 2016. “Instead of designing print materials, I discovered creative and sustainable ways to run a business.”

The cohort format keeps the entire class together throughout the program.

“You really get to know each person and see their value,” Ms. Krahn says. “Some people have been in the workforce for 20, 30 years, and some graduated last year. That range of perspectives is really useful.”

Each participant puts the design mindset to use in an internship or career-oriented project, and the program culminates with a weeklong capstone experience. Working feverishly to assist clients from as far away as Barcelona, Spain, the first BDI group illustrated just how far — literally — they’d come.