College of Professional Studies' Fall 2018 Reflections: The Innovation Journey

Produced by: Katia Passerini, Ph.D, PMP, Dean, College of Professional Studies

Katia P.
November 19, 2018

Dear CPS Community (Students, Alumni, Advisory Board Members, Faculty and Staff)

As we come to the mid-point of our Fall 2018 term, I would like to take a minute to reflect on what innovation is and why, if you walked on the hallways of our home in St. Augustine Hall, 2nd floor, you find words and banners boldly claiming that “We educate the next VIPs – the Vincentian Innovators and Professionals.” Innovation is foundational to our past, present and future, not only as a College, but as an academic unit that needs to prepare students for the challenges of a rapidly evolving society.

There is no doubt that the pace of change has accelerated in many domains, education included. This change is driven by new technological discoveries and ideas that are now crowdsourced from anywhere, at any time, in a context where competition is not local but global.

In such a fast-paced environment, we must rethink the way we teach new knowledge and help students acquire new skills. Rather than imparting knowledge as sages on stage, we must guide students in discovering it, while navigating through ambiguity, non-linear paths and filtering the deluge of data and information continuously available.

Today’s workplaces must deal with ambiguity: anything that is linear, and not-complex, can and will be automated by computers or outsourced to lower costs providers (nationally or internationally). And this is where innovation comes to play, abruptly and relentlessly: it is not about completing one task or reading one book, but it is about mixing and matching content from multiple sources so that we can create new business models and possibilities.

This is a rather difficult way of teaching and learning, it requires moving through cycles of idea generation, selection and implementation, and then doing it again. In the “idea” economy, students who are trained to think differently, generate new knowledge, processes, products, or services, and can bring them to fruition, will be more prepared for the future of work. It is the merger of the left brain and right brain, convergent and divergent thinking, in the past we had always seen these as different skills, but now we expect for them to be working at the unison and harmonically in the same learners.

How can we achieve this goal? By continuing our focus on incorporating theory and practice, merging conceptual and applied learning, providing spaces/places and opportunities where our students continue to be creative and learn from each other. This is what we have been doing over the past few weeks: from opening new labs (the Media Arts and Design Lab – MAD lab) or dedicating our one year-old labs to generous supporters who believe in this journey and encourage us to further study the latest techniques in cybersecurity, and innovation, to enable students to “discover, innovate, succeed” and to make a difference, true to our Vincentian mission by focusing also on social innovation, social justice and entrepreneurship (through dedicated funding such as Dr. Sumitra Shah’s Women Entrepreneurship scholarship). 

We are learning with the students on how to learn and relearn in this new economy, in a way that catapults us forward. It is a wonderful journey and we hope that you will continue to enjoy it with us and have as much fun as we are.