News at Smith

Apply to the Strategic Design & Innovation Fellows Program

Jan 31, 2018
Experiential / Reality-based Learning


Lauren Black, class of 2019 accounting and information systems double major at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, contributed to this article. 

Smith Undergrads: Applications for Honors and Fellows Programs at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business are due by midnight Feb. 12, 2018. For more information, visit this web page.

In the Jan. 1, 2018, issue of Fortune magazine, the article entitled "Business By Design" begins with, "Technology and globalization are leading to more and faster disruption than ever. To stay ahead, smart companies are turning to design to better connect with customers and fine-tune their competitive advantage." The article continues by featuring 25 companies from a range of industries that are getting design “right.” Companies such as Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, IBM, Starbucks, and Google, just to name a few.

Ten years ago, Professor Mary Harms created the Strategic Design Fellows (SDF) Program to prepare students to enter today's highly-competitive marketing industry. “The program curriculum and co-curricular activities are designed to produce business leaders who can generate strategically sound and creative design solutions using Design Thinking,” according to the SDF is the perfect opportunity to bring more creativity into your marketing major. This two-year program mixes business and design and inspires students to develop design literacy, a way to identify good design, while also strengthening crucial business skills such as creative problem solving through design thinking. The courses for the program fit nearly seamlessly into the marketing major, promoting discovery of different areas of the marketing industry.

Harms, faculty champion of the program, helps ensure students entering the workforce have experience working in a creative environment. Through coursework, site visits, internships, guest speakers networking events, and pitching their final projects to business professional judges, students gain invaluable experiences with marketing and design techniques, that prepare them for working in the 21st-century business environment.

Professor Harms connects with scores of alumni each year to gain insight into their fields. This helps her keep coursework relevant for students in a rapidly changing business world. Many alumni return to campus to share their expertise and remain as networking connections for the undergraduates.

Google, Ogilvy and Wunderman are a few of the companies where Design Fellows have interned and/or received full-time offers. In addition, the annual two-day career exploration trip to New York City features site visits to advertising agencies, product design and packaging firms, and digital firms such as Horizon Media, BBDO, and CBX. The networking event with SDF alumni working in NYC is one of the highlights of the trip often cited by undergraduates.

“I wanted to double major in graphic design but couldn’t fit it into my schedule,” said Kevin Li, a junior marketing and information systems double major, who joined SDF to get design experience. Kevin further explained, “Lessons learned in the program allow me to pair up my two passions (business and design). It really allows us to understand how design interacts in business settings and how to balance great design and great business thinking.” Kevin is interested in becoming a copywriting after graduation, which is the textual component of advertising and design. Kevin, like many other Fellows, will use his thorough insight into Design Thinking from SDF to help him excel in his future career.

“In Design Fellows, I had the opportunity to work with brilliant, creative and funny individuals to create amazing ad campaigns. I'm immensely proud of everything my team has accomplished. During a final round interview, I was asked what was the number one thing I had learned in college and I replied that it was to surround myself with people who push me to be a better version of myself. I believe that's what my design fellows team has done for me,” summed up recent SDF grad Jessica Ting her SDF experience. After internships at Proctor and Gamble, the National Park Service and InStreamOne, she took an offer as a strategy associate at CapitalOne.

"Design Fellows gave me a home in the business school. (Initially) I felt surrounded by people only wanting to work for Deloitte or KPMG. Finding Design Fellows showed me there were other creatives around me who could push me and help me grow in the world of design. Design Fellows was by far the best decision I made in my college career," reflected current senior Jake Hughes on his experience SDF.

Students learn the Adobe Creative Suite, including InDesign, Illustrator, Sketch, and Photoshop. With those skill sets, they create their personal brand identity, including their own logo, business cards and letterhead as well as creating their own online portfolio to help them attain internships and full-time positions after graduation. As juniors, students work in teams to develop retail concepts complete with interior and exterior design, merchandise and service mixes and advertising and promotional campaigns. As seniors, the students are divided up into agencies where they create the branding for their agency and then go on to create branding campaigns for a non-profit and a for-profit firm. Both junior and senior teams pitch their final projects to judges who are current marketing practitioners.


Applications for Design Fellows for 2018-19 are due Feb. 12, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.

  • Online application form.
  • Cover letter – Explains why you want to be a part of this program, what you can bring to the program, and what you hope to gain from participating. (Address to faculty champion.)
  • Résumé.
  • Essay - Please write on the role design has played in your life, why you want to be in Design Fellows, and what you would like to do with your Design Fellows knowledge and experience after graduation. 2-3 pages, double-spaced.
  • Optional portfolio.
  • Note: Cover letter, résumé, essay, and portfolio must be submitted in a PDF.

Questions? Read our Fellows FAQs or contact

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.