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Judge's point of view

The tenth annual Student Showcase featured 300 projects, 500 students and 15 community judges including Greg Olson

Three Colorado Mesa University students fidget nervously as Greg Olson walks up with a file folder in hand. In the next five minutes, they will have to convince Olson that their idea for a startup company to locally repair and replace knee braces makes good sense.

Seth Coisman, Christopher Sarabia and Gregory Waldorf didn’t know that their judge for the 2019 Student Showcase once had an idea like theirs and ran with it. He is now the owner of Growl Agency, a design and marketing firm with 15 employees in Grand Junction, Denver and Vietnam.

Olson was once a 20-something with a mechanical engineering degree, a head full of ideas and no sure path to success. He only knew he wanted to work for himself and to grow a business with a great culture so employees could let their creativity fly.

Master of Physician Assistant Studies student Benjamin Liames presents work on the
PA program’s nutritional education initiative.

Olson was 34 before he identified a need in the emerging digital design and marketing realm. He and his wife, Libby, started Growl in Denver and two years ago moved part of the business to Grand Junction.

Having a university nearby as a resource was key to that move. Olson has become an active participant in CMU happenings with showcase judge being the latest.

“I needed an airport and a university to make the move work,” Olson said. “CMU has been a great resource. I have employees from CMU.”

Olson and his fellow judge, Jennifer Brownell of Land Title Guarantee, were one of dozens of judging teams at the 2019 Showcase, which had the entire campus buzzing with idea displays and demonstrations from over 500 students. Students, from arts to engineering programs and every discipline in between, displayed and explained projects related to topics as varied as vineyard attributes, stock market investments, hemp production, golf injuries and antibiotic use.

Olson and Brownell had the task of picking one winner from their group of students.

Their number one was Joshua Levy who had already found a problem — shin splits in athletes’ legs. He formulated a solution in a small metal bar that helps heal the tears, produced the product he calls “Shin-Bar,” enlisted the aid of professional athletes in setting up a related foundation and predicted his product’s quick rise in Amazon’s rankings.

Olson liked Levy’s passion and his methodical march towards making his product a success.

Olson also liked that judging this showcase reminded him of what he might have presented at the event if the tables were turned.

“There are so many things I’ve been interested in doing,” he said. “Seeing all these students with their ideas is a good reminder of all my interests over the years.”

He wrapped up his judging duties by mulling over a feasible new idea: a digital product that would analyze data to determine why people make the choices they do. •


Written by Nancy Lofholm, Designed By Susannah Labonde, CMU Visual Design Major