Be a Catalyst for Change

The Innovation Studies minor combines PLU’s unique offerings in the liberal arts and the professional schools, as well as curriculum and programming offered by the Benson Chair in Business and Economic History. Innovation Studies is especially supportive of, and connected to, PLU initiatives that encourage diversity, justice, and sustainability.

What is the program?

In the business and non-profit worlds, the skills necessary for developing new ideas transcend the academic boundaries found within universities. The Innovation Studies minor’s flexible curriculum enables students to integrate their major into a rich interdisciplinary framework, and leverage current proficiencies while discovering new ones.

Innovation Studies values the contribution of each student and works to develop collaboration across disciplines and majors.
Build a “Start-up” Mentality in Students

  • Understand entrepreneurship in historical and ethical contexts
  • Learn workplace skills and add value to organizations
  • Collaborate with community partners for social impact
  • Practice teaming and human-centered design principles

Enrich the PLU Experience

  • Nurture interdisciplinary connections
  • Connect with Parkland and Tacoma communities
  • Think deeply about vocation
  • Create a safe space for dreaming and collaborating
  • Make a genuine contribution to the world

PLU students try a welding project under the guidance of Art & Design Professor Spencer Ebbinga. In addition to the academic curriculum, students get a chance to experiment with fiber arts, sewing, painting, welding, electronics, graphic design, and more.
How does it work?

Foundation courses in the program build essential skills to understand the process of innovation in historical and ethical contexts, and to learn fundamental concepts in design thinking, community engagement, and entrepreneurship.

A community Makerspace builds practical skills and fosters a sense of teamwork, collaboration, and creativity.

A concluding seminar requires that students work in teams to envision their own innovative solutions to pressing problems, strategic opportunities, and community concerns.

When students enter the workplace, we hope that they will have a sense of agency and preparation to think creatively, form teams, and collaborate across disciplines and departments. We hope that they will have a renewed sense of vocation and the skills and mindset for social impact.

Between 2019 and 2023, over 50 students have graduated with a PLU Innovation Studies minor. Most now work in highly creative fields, including business, education, computing, non-profit organizations, music, and public service. Interested in joining them?

Program Influences

Innovation Studies at PLU is the first fully-developed academic program in the Pacific Northwest that studies innovation, entrepreneurship, and design thinking through a rich interdisciplinary lens. Some courses relate to the cognitive processes of innovation or innovation in historical or ethical perspective; others pertain more directly to stages of the innovation process or professional skills considered useful in teams charged with bringing new ideas to market. We are proud of our program and its focus on community engagement.

Michael Halvorson, Director of Innovation Studies
Professor Michael Halvorson, Director of Innovation Studies
Professor Laurie Murphy is a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science

The Pacific Northwest is a region strongly connected to the tradition of entrepreneurship and social responsibility, from Boeing and Microsoft to Amazon, Alaska Airlines, and numerous companies involved with health-care innovation and entertainment.

Many of our alumni work in these companies and helped to start or expand them.

The director of Innovation Studies is Michael Halvorson, Ph.D., Benson Family Chair in Business and Economic History. Dr. Halvorson worked at Microsoft and was an early PC programming enthusiast and book author. Halvorson teaches courses on U.S. business and economic history, design thinking, the history of technology, and innovation for social impact.

During the 2023-2024 academic year, three Innovation Studies interns will work in the program, including Maddie Lamwers, Jude Jackson, and Kat Moloney. Alexis Austin serves as the director of the Innovation Studies Makerspace.

For a complete list of the PLU faculty members affiliated with the Innovation Studies program, click here.