Innovation has always been the tradition at Boise State. But in recent years the university’s trajectory has been unrivaled. That has translated into better opportunities and success for students, more of the kinds of research and inquiry that can improve lives and change the world, and an explosion of creativity and advancement on all corners of campus.
President Obama visits the Tech Help New Product Development Lab during his January 2015 trip to Boise State University. Photo by John Kelly.
When President Barack Obama visited campus in January 2015, he praised the “culture of innovation” at Boise State. Obama visited the New Product Development lab, where the university works with local industries and entrepreneurs to design and prototype products and components and to help get them to the marketplace.
The lab is just one way Boise State is adapting educational practices to meet changing student and employer demands for new and evolving skills and competencies. The College of Innovation and Design is the latest example of the entrepreneurial spirit that pervades the Boise State campus. Gordon Jones, the founding director of the Harvard Innovation Lab, will join Boise State this summer as the inaugural dean of the College of Innovation and Design. The Innovation Lab, known at Harvard as the “i-lab,” was created in 2011 to bring students and faculty with big ideas together across disciplinary boundaries to launch businesses, hone innovations and more.
Students enrolled in one of Boise State’s largest and most popular undergraduate majors, mechanical engineering, get to work as technicians for local businesses looking for new products and markets. With 3D printers and other rapid-prototyping equipment, the New Product Development Lab allows them to inexpensively build and test ideas from the first conception to the production line. This video goes inside Boise State’s work with local businesses and entrepreneurs. Video by Rod Cashin and Kim Oswalt.
Inaugural dean of the College of Innovation and Design, Gordon Jones, lets us in on some of his plans at Boise State in a Q&A.
Photo by Carrie Quinney.
We hear the term “innovation” a lot. What exactly does it mean?
In its more conventional sense the term is synonymous with invention or discovery. When it is applied to the College of Innovation and Design, it is used more as a term of exploration and experimentation. We have an expectation that interesting discovery will come out of this college.
What does innovation look like at a university?
I believe when you infuse a culture of innovation at a university you find people not only doing their work well, but also thinking how it might be done differently and better. That is happening today. I believe there is a culture of innovation around Boise State, and underneath it the can-do spirit of Boise. It’s a city on the move with a university on the move.
Why is it important for students, as well as Idaho’s economy, that higher education be innovative in its approach?
At the end of the day, the tools that were successful for our parents will evolve and be different over time, and universities are the single greatest vehicles to equip our next generations. Change is inevitable. How we respond to it is a way we can differentiate ourselves. An innovative approach will make our students relevant, successful and able to contribute to the health and well-being of our local community. They will step into the workplace with skills that are relevant for today.
How do you build a college around innovation?
The College of Innovation and Design is not set up around the discipline of innovation. Instead, it is designed to be an engine of experimentation and innovation. It will enable faculty to combine their interests that span across disciplines, and students will benefit from that. An engineering student may need some business fundamentals, and a business student may want exposure to some education courses. That will differentiate their experience here at Boise State and make them stand out in the job marketplace. We are thinking about places and ways we can transcend the traditional colleges, and ways in which student learning can extend into the community and workplace.
What is your vision for the college five years or ten years from now?
It will be a vibrant place in which faculty are supported in their cross disciplinary experiences, students are raving about the ability to augment majors and we have a whole spectrum of students participating and choosing Boise State because there are unique majors that fit them. The community will be excited about the continual invention and reinvention of degrees and skills. It will be an interconnected ecosystem.
Why did you decide to come to Boise State?
Photo by John Kelly.
I have always been a builder. I’m really captivated by President Kustra’s vision for Boise State and the continual progress it has made. It’s a university on the move and it’s a university that wants to make history. I am excited to join that story and add a chapter with the College of Innovation and Design. I’m not aware of another university that is creating degree–granting colleges around this level of experimental learning.