Published 04/05/16

Provost Sulmasy at AIC groundbreaking

Glenn Sulmasy, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, addresses guests attending the May 2015 groundbreaking for the Academic Innovation Center.

Magazine, new site focus on how Bryant is advancing the future of learning

Bryant's aspirations for the future are becoming reality as the University creates new models for educating innovative leaders with character.

Cover of Bryant Spring 2016 The spring 2016 issue of Bryant magazine explores the frontier of our innovative thought behind what we teach and how we teach it. This issue features stories about the Academic Innovation Center, Faculty Innovation Grant recipients, the 2016 edition of IDEA, and more.

In addition, we've launched innovation.bryant.edu, developed to illustrate how, in an era of distance learning with its explosion of online degree programs, bold institutions like Bryant are investing in brick and mortar, building innovation centers that support the shifting ambitions of students.

Design thinking and breaking down silos

“As the challenges our society faces become more complex, academic institutions are recognizing the power of crossing traditional academic lines to develop relevant solutions,” Brad Lukanic, Executive Director of CannonDesign’s Global Education Practice, wrote in a Fast Company essay published February 25, 2015.  “This recognition is triggering the creation of innovation centers that drive cross-pollination and … are focused on accelerating discovery through problem-based, multi-disciplinary learning that addresses 21st-century challenges.”

“Advancing these new models ... promote an environment where emerging leaders can explore the complex social challenges of our time.”

The educational spaces emerging at Bryant, Harvard, MIT, and elsewhere come with a variety of names, but whether they promote multi-disciplinary learning, foster collaboration with industry, or drive entrepreneurship, all “share the goal of breaking down historical silos and creating new partnerships,” Lukanic said. “Business schools are becoming immersed in design thinking; libraries are not just ‘delivering’ service, but becoming fully immersed as partners in research endeavors; educational institutions are actively seeking collaborative engagement with the world of industry to address real-world issues.”

The payoff is multifold. “Advancing these new models can help universities recruit fresh talent, establish new partnerships for success and promote an environment where emerging leaders can explore the complex social challenges of our time,” Lukanic said.

High-impact practices

For students hungry to connect with faculty members and make an impact, “higher education has to be responsive” said Gordon Jones, former director of Harvard’s Innovation Lab and now the dean of the College of Innovation and Design at Boise State University in Idaho. Universities that successfully attract and retain such students “are investing in resources that are of high caliber and equipping students to tackle problems of importance.”

The Academic Innovation Center is exactly that: a high-caliber, groundbreaking resource for experiential learning that, in President Ronald K. Machtley’s words, “will create a forum for what we teach and how we teach it.” Already, faculty who have developed new styles of teaching in Bryant’s most advanced classrooms – Bello 103 and the Ideation Lab – are yet again reimagining how the Academic Innovation Center will help them coach a student’s twitch of creativity into full bloom.

“The reality is that to survive in a fast-changing world you need to be creative,” Gerard J. Puccio, chairman of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College, told the New York Times. “That is why you are seeing more attention to creativity at universities. The marketplace is demanding it.”

Fostering creativity for success

In fact “creativity” was the factor identified as most crucial for success by 1,500 chief executives in 33 industries who were surveyed in 2010 by I.B.M.

“The reality is that to survive in a fast-changing world you need to be creative.”

President Machtley identified this need for an innovative center for learning and teaching in his Vision 2020 strategic plan, Expanding the World of Opportunity. The breakthrough thinking that guided the center’s design arose in part from multiple studies at Bryant – including outcomes from Faculty Innovation Grants, the acclaimed First Year Gateway and its Innovation and Design Experience for All (IDEA) program – indicating that students fare better with active learning.

Bryant has long understood the principle that learning works best when teaching is built on a foundation of student-centered personal connection. The University’s new Academic Innovation Center is a response to a changing world, taking the concept of applied learning and personal connection to its highest level.