Innovation@CC: New program attracts $8.5 million in donations

Colorado College finished up 2015 on a strong note, receiving 8.5 million in an anonymous donation to be used in the establishment of an innovation program. Six million dollars of this donation will go towards building a brand new building on the corner of Uintah and Cascade.

This donation follows two big articles that put CC on the map. One from Forbes ranked CC as the third “Most Entrepreneurial College in America,” noting that the institution’s “innovation center hosts Innovation Thursdays, [and] weekly workshops on nitty-gritty startup skills.”

Colorado College’s attractiveness to outside interests is likely due to the rapid successes of Innovation@CC, or as it was formerly known: The Innovation Institute.

“This is our second formal year,” said Jill Lange, the program manager of Innovation@CC. “We started in 14’-15’, when we were really just forming our vision. What are our objectives… how do we have impact? Things like that.”

In broad strokes Innovation@CC divides its focus into three categories: curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular. For curricular activities, this means focusing on integrating innovation into the classroom setting.

During Block 4 of 2015 Miroslav Kummel and the Executive director of Innovation@CC Patrick Bultema co-taught a block that integrated environmental studies, drones, and the innovative process.

The students in the block learned how to operate unmanned aerial craft and use them to survey areas from a bird’s-eye view, while Bultema outlined some of the strategies to foster innovation within a field that the students already have a vested interest. The goal was to get the students to integrate drones and environmentalism into some kind of business.

This is just the first block created within this paradigm. Lange hopes that Innovation@CC will be able to help other professors turn other ideas like this into reality.

The co-curricular and extracurricular categories overlap a bit, and involve teaching innovation strategies through lectures, workshops, and Half-Blocks. Bultema has taught The Start Up Crash Course during Half-Block the last three years. The class focuses on teaching students the basic terminology, and the expectations for any new business trying to establish itself.

“It let students look into the window of the startup world, which we otherwise would not have been able to do” said sophomore Anna Smit, who attended Bultema’s Half-Block course this year. “And if students had an idea, it allowed them to get their feet wet by putting together a pitch for it and talking through some logistics with someone who has a ton of experience.”

Innovation@CC also hosts innovation Thursdays, where a variety of guest speakers come in to talk about their experiences in the startup arena or the world of business.

“We bring in different speakers from a variety of industries to talk about their experiences,” said Lange. “What was successful, what were the failures, what’d you learn. We really want to get those personal stories.”

Jill Tiefenthaler has helped get Innovation@CC off the ground as well.

“One aspect of [the strategic plan] was this idea of wanting to really explicitly highlight the innovation theme at CC” said Lange. “[Innovation@CC] was kind of spearheaded through the president’s office to say this is a concept we need to pursue in a more structured way.”

Colorado College is the ideal place for a program like Innovation@CC to take root given the campus culture.

Given the flexibility of the block plan, students aren’t confined to their major if they choose to pursue other interests like intramurals or clubs. That flexibility, combined with the fact that Innovation@CC is not part of any specific department, means that just about any student can work to create a platform for their ideas if they have the inclination.

Innovation@CC is trying to use this flexibility to create a certification process for students that are involved in their programming.

Students would receive recognition if they attended a certain number of Thursday talks, guest speakers, and classes that tied in innovation as a focus. This process would give a measure of status to anyone who completed the program, in addition to all the skills one would garner from attending this many classes.

CC students are also constantly self-organizing on platforms large and small to affect change, from the efforts of Amnesty International to the daily deliveries of CC Food Rescue.

However, students often find it difficult to turn their theories into reality, which is where Innovation@CC comes in. By providing students with the tools necessary to build their skills, the program administrators hope to equip more students with the ability to turn their ideas into actions and make a difference in their community.

This sentiment is echoed through the statement of the anonymous donor.

“My goal in making this gift is to obliterate silos and ensure that Colorado College students from all academic backgrounds are equipped and given the opportunity to realize their dreams while changing the world in significant positive ways,” said the donor.

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