Sparking Creative Thinking

By Eric F. Spina

When I walked into the GEMnasium — an unconventional laboratory for boundary-crossing ideas in Fitz Hall — I immediately spotted a sign listing a dozen “rules of play.” With instructions like “seek surprise,” “fail fast,” and “create!” it’s clear that so-called “rules” are meant to be broken here.

Faculty and students in 15 courses in disciplines ranging from early childhood education to engineering and from religion to theatre are collaborating on new, cross-disciplinary approaches for combatting the opioid epidemic in the Dayton region, where deaths are heartbreakingly high.

This shared space may be a step toward becoming the first university in the country where every student has curricular involvement in innovation, applied creativity, and entrepreneurial thinking.

It’s a step toward creating the “transdisciplinary faculty” of the future who can break down silos and work together to engage students in solving complex challenges.

It’s a step toward realizing our 20-year aspirational vision to be The University for the Common Good.

I invite faculty and staff to learn more about the GEMnasium approach, hear updates on other initiatives flowing from our strategic vision, and engage in highly interactive conversations about next steps we may choose to take. While the response rate has been high, it’s not too late to RSVP for the 3:30-5 p.m., Friday, March 23, forum in Kennedy Union’s east ballroom. All ideas are welcome!

During the 90-minute informal event, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to hop between table clusters, hear updates on six diverse initiatives, and add their creative ideas to the mix. This will be an opportunity to build energy, ideas, and momentum in advancing the University in these emerging areas:

• Diversity and inclusion, including the new Inclusive Excellence Academy

  • • Community Innovation Center planning
  • • Innovation Hub planning
  • • Applied creativity: The GEMnasium and opioid addiction
  • • Proposed graduate program in autonomous systems
  • • Promotion and tenure

In the GEMnasium, everyone’s experience is brought to the table. All are welcome to share ideas — whether fanciful or pragmatic. “Leave your rank at the door,” advises a sign leading into the GEMnasium. “Whether you’re a student, faculty, or community partner, everyone is welcome to teach and learn.”

Using that same approach, we want to foster creativity and collaboration as we take another step toward realizing our strategic vision. It will take all of our imaginative ideas to help chart our course for the future — and prepare the next generation of great thinkers and innovators.

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