We talked with Bara Watts, director of the Center for Innovation and Impact, about the change and what it means for the campus.
Q. Creativity and Leadership is changing its name to the Center for Innovation and Impact. What does this change signify?
A: As our students enter the “Innovation Economy,” entrepreneurial thinking skills will be ever more important and desired, particularly for leadership roles within all sectors. The new title more closely describes the function and mission of the Center as a place that provides programming and curriculum that fosters entrepreneurial thinking, campus-wide. “Innovation” is what you get when education and imagination are combined to solve problems. “Impact” is what happens when innovation is combined with entrepreneurial thinking and skills to cause some form of change.
Q: What does the newly-named Center for Innovation and Impact offer that’s different from Creativity and Leadership?
A: Creativity and Leadership housed the single module Intro to Entrepreneurship class, the XARTS and FIGS grants that provide students funding to explore innovative projects, and the venture startup bootcamp and funding program called LaunchU. The Center for Innovation and Impact includes these original elements but is developing additional programming and content in partnership with faculty, departments, and centers to engage more students in the process of innovation to impact for positive change.
An illustration of this new programming is our work with the Bonner Center in the development of a three-part workshop for the Junior Bonner Scholars. The fall 2018 workshop will engage three of the Bonner Center’s nonprofit partners to identify problems for which the students will design solutions. Another example is the exploration of co-curricular programs with Laura Baudot, associate dean of the college of arts and sciences, in the Oberlin Center for Convergence (StudiOC). I’m ready to collaborate with any faculty who are interested in offering some aspect of entrepreneurial thinking within their curriculum.
Finally, the Center for Innovation and Impact is partnering with others who are engaged in entrepreneurial skill building. For example, we are supporting the Entrepreneurship Club’s first ever Startup Weekend, a weekend-long entrepreneurial program.
Q: Why is it important for students to learn how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset?
A: In our rapidly changing world, it is becoming more important that education not only include rigorous teaching, but also the ability to activate that knowledge. Entrepreneurial thinking is the action step of a contemporary education. At its core, it seeks to identify problems, find solutions, and develop sustainable action plans that meet the specific needs of individuals or groups. Entrepreneurial thinking is not developed from just one class but rather from its practice in a variety of situations and applications.
Q: Who can get involved with programs in the Center for Innovation and Impact, and are there any requirements?
A: Except for specific programs, such as those in the Bonner Center, anyone within the Oberlin community is invited to participate, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents. The only requirement is curiosity, a desire to drive positive change, and the ability to work hard.
Q: So far, what programming is planned for this year?
A: We have a variety of programming planned, including Startup Weekend from September 21 through 23 and hosted by the Oberlin Entrepreneurship Club; various Innovation Talks, the first of which is “Designing the Future with Digital Innovation” on September 27; and LaunchU 2019, which is holding info sessions on September 28 and October 11.