University of Colorado - Advancement | CU Foundation - Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus

Business as usual

Entrepreneurship center pivots in the midst of COVID-19 to find learning opportunities for students.

A man wearing a dark shirt looks to the side. The background is an artistic design with colorful shapes.

When Jake Atkinson enrolled in CU Denver’s one-year MBA program, he wanted to shake up his career after working as a bond trader for nearly 13 years. He expected to work as a graduate assistant on THE CLIMB, an annual student business plan competition in the spring at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship at the CU Denver Business School.

But, as you learn in business, when the unexpected happens, you pivot.

After the pandemic cancelled campus events, Atkinson says he worried at first that he would lose his assistantship. But CU Denver’s commitment to student success wouldn’t let that happen.

“The one-year MBA program started off one way and ended completely differently. I felt like my classmates really stepped up, as well as the instructors and staff. They did a great job bringing that same effort and quality as we would have had in class to remote learning. As the pandemic marched on, I think we just knew that we were all in this together.”

A man poses in downtown Denver and smiles brightly at you.

Jake Atkinson

Instead of the business plan competition, Atkinson worked with the Rutt Bridges Venture Fund, an investment fund run by a cross-disciplinary team of CU Denver students, faculty and local business professionals at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship.

The Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship at the CU Denver Business School was renamed in 2013 following a transformational gift from the Colorado entrepreneur and businessman. Ongoing philanthropic support has since opened an event center, which houses additional conference rooms and workspace on the downtown campus, while also funding programming, scholarships, research and a student accelerator program.

Institutes and centers connect professionals and scholars with CU students. After graduating in 2020, Atkinson continues to work with the venture fund student group and has joined the Design Horizons Labs Entrepreneurial Fellows Program where he helps fellow CU Denver students learn the steps of creating a business from ideation to launch. 

“Having that donor support is essential. It helps with infrastructure, like a new building and classrooms with modern equipment and technology. We have had access to instructors who have worked in industry and guest speakers from the Denver business community – experts with real-world experience. And we’re right in the heart of downtown, which helps us as students have the opportunity to connect with a lot of local business leaders. That has helped expand my horizons, and it showed me that there are many ways to be successful.”

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