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From the Vice President

Newest Recruit to Focus on Innovation and Design

Here’s a headline from a Boston-based magazine that should get every Bronco excited: “Harvard I-Lab Leader Leaving for Boise State to Revamp Education.”

The Boise State fan site BroncoCountry tweeted out the news the night before football’s National Signing Day: “Now this is a recruiting victory that deserves as much recognition as anyone we’ve landed in recent years. Great get!”

Bringing on Gordon Jones, the founding director of the Harvard Innovation Lab, to be the first Dean of Boise State’s College of Innovation and Design, may have raised the bar — and attracted attention around Idaho and the nation.

Jones turned the I-Lab into a gathering place that brings students and faculty with big ideas together across disciplinary boundaries to launch businesses, hone innovations and more. The college he will run at Boise State is envisioned as a university-wide hub that will leverage the speed, collaboration and risk-taking of a start-up to re-imagine the way the university teaches, learns and conducts research. It will be a lab to generate and implement big ideas.

A study by Eduventures, an organization that researches higher education best practices, shows that big ideas inspire transformational philanthropy. Ideas that set out to address global concerns, have world impact, drive innovation, or shape the university’s national role and reputation involve students, faculty and donors in collaborative ways from their inception. In fact, the research shows that a third of the successful big ideas come from the donors themselves. The findings highlight the importance of the collaborative process.

One of the College of Innovation and Design’s kick-off programs will be Boise State’s “Vertically Integrated Projects” — VIPs — launched with a consortium of research heavyweights like Purdue University, Georgia Tech, Rice University and others.

VIPs unite large teams of undergraduates with graduate students and faculty to work together on long-term research projects, in response to a community or industry-based need.

Boise State is piloting its first VIP program, titled “The Science of Art: Preservation and Reverse Engineering of Cultural Heritage.” Led by Dr. Darryl Butt, distinguished professor of materials science and engineering and associate director of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, it will include students from both art and materials science who will study the science, history and psychology of color in art.

“This VIP course transcends academic borders and offers a unique opportunity for students — from all academic backgrounds — to collaborate together to overcome an identified problem,” said Brittany Cannon, a graduate student in materials science. “The union of the sciences and humanities allows issues, which may have otherwise been too difficult to address from a single perspective, to become manageable.”

Jones, will work with advancement and academic leaders on campus and Eduventures to create a university-wide collaborative process to generate and green-light more big ideas. An inclusive process that includes, students, faculty, administrators and donors who will help fund the bold visions that will propel the university – and society – forward.

Stay tuned.

Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.

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