Society advances through innovation. As a species, we develop new and better ideas and methods. This innovation requires a cadre of creativity and problem solving skills that are essential elements for advancement across all disciplines. A survey of 1,500 chief executive officers worldwide identified creativity as the most important leadership quality of the future. The demand for creativity and creative thinking is increasing and will fuel economies in the future, yet students are less prepared to become innovative thinkers of tomorrow. Fortunately, these skills can be enhanced and taught.
Creativity and innovation serve as a focus unto themselves, as well as an essential component of Next Generation Connecticut. The Neag School of Education brings a unique, interdisciplinary perspective to the Gov. Malloy’s challenge to strengthen Connecticut’s ability to attract and sustain a talented workforce in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Innovation in all endeavors requires more than an infusion of capital; innovation also requires a workforce with a willingness to persist in problem-solving and to seek creative and novel solutions. To achieve the high level of innovation necessary to prompt economic development in Connecticut, young people in our state need to encounter interdisciplinary learning opportunities that incorporate creative problem solving in an authentic way as part of the learning process at the University, as well as in K-12 education settings. A different kind of teaching is necessary, one in which the teacher serves as a coach for the development of skills, such as the ability to engage in problem-solving and inquiry.
There is a movement developing at Research I Universities across the country in which faculty work across disciplines (arts, STEM, business, health care) to foster students’ creative development in ways that will give them the necessary tools for success, particularly in the STEM fields. Leading U.S. research universities are committed to helping equip students and faculty to address the world’s most pressing, complex, and open-ended challenges with creative confidence as well as disciplinary expertise.
Drawing from the research base, creativity experts from other colleges at the University, and our own faculty with expertise in creativity, pedagogy, and technology, the Neag School of Education is prepared to participate in a strategic plan to promote creative problem solving and innovation across the university. These efforts will encompass faculty members from every discipline on campus and students in every field of study. We believe this idea has potential for:
(a) enhancing UConn students’ versatility in the face of change;
(b) forming a collaborative cohort of cross-discipline faculty researching creativity and innovation, and;
(c) attracting major donor funding in creativity and innovation.
Creativity represents both new criteria and scholastic emphasis that may enhance equity.
Strengths in Creativity and Innovation
- Neag School of Education recently successfully recruited three internationally recognized experts on creativity and innovation who have experience working with broad audiences (both nationally and internationally) across different disciplines in enhancing creative thinking and experience developing creativity programs in higher education.
- Creativity and its application to real-world problems is the basis of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. This model is the most widely used model in the world for gifted education and was developed by researchers in the Neag School of Education’s gifted and talented program. This model can be used to enhance creativity training with students across campus.
- Neag School of Education currently offers a graduate course in creativity that reaches enrollment capacity each semester it is offered. We also offer a course in enhancing thinking skills. Our expertise in these areas can be expanded to serve as the basis for online certificates, additional undergraduate and graduate course in creativity and innovation, a possible undergraduate minor, and advanced graduate degrees in creativity and innovation.
- Our gifted and talented program is nationally and internationally recognized for its work in this area.
- Developing and promoting international relationships is a key component to Neag’s vision as well as UConn’s future academic success. Our diversity promotes relationships internationally as well as with domestic institutions of higher education.
- Diversity, culturally and experientially, across the Neag faculty affords a foundation to foster creative development.
- Neag faculty have expertise in Problem Based Learning (PBL), a well-documented instruction approach that scaffolds the development of creative problem solving and innovation. PBL as a delivery method in a STEM population is ripe for development and research.
- Online course development and certificate initiatives are not only a goal, but strengths of the NSoE.
Opportunities in Creativity and Innovation
- All programs across the Neag School of Education recognize the need to incorporate more creativity and innovative thinking within their programs.
- Various programs across the campus have an interest in creativity and innovation and are conducting research in this area, providing a platform for strong cross-campus collaborations for programming and research. A number of university faculty are well-known researchers in the area.
- Membership on the planning task force for the creation of a university Institute on Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship and membership on the university’s Strategic Area Advisory Team on creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship provide us with opportunities to participate in and influence the university’s direction in positive ways.
- Middle Eastern and Asian countries are placing an emphasis on creativity and are seeking assistance is developing creativity within their educational systems, providing potential international program and research sites. Our faculty often advise these countries on their initiatives.
- Campus-wide interest in creativity and innovation is evident in the addition of an Innovation House to UConn’s First Year Programs and Learning Communities.
- Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship is one of the themes identified by the Campus-wide Strategic Planning Committee.
- Industry partners could be a prime funding source for collaborative and research initiatives. Funding for creative proposals that connect disciplines around creativity and innovation could also be funded by NSF programs such as CREATIV.
- The university currently sponsors hundreds of efforts to promote creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship including student programs such as Innovation Quest, courses such as Creativity and Social Change, immersion opportunities such as Innovation House, and organized centers such as the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. If we were to connect these efforts for the purpose of sharing expertise, we would realize the influence and potential of the wealth of knowledge that exists at our university.