Colleges across the University of Cincinnati unanimously agreed that a new entrepreneurship track should be created that would benefit students who want to practice their discipline and immediately apply their innovative ideas to real-life scenarios while completing their degree. Carlo Montemagno, dean and Geier professor of engineering education of the College of Engineering and Applied Science and a tenured professor of biomedical engineering, quickly recognized the need for such a track and responded.
"UC3: Certificate in Innovation Transformation" is a cross-college (A&S, CEAS, CECH, LCOB and DAAP) and multidisciplinary certificate program designed to help undergraduate students turn their ideas into commercial services that can be applied to market/societal needs. Through a combination of focused foundational courses and experiential learning activities, students are advised on how to bring their ideas to market after graduation.
Heikenfeld and the team believed it would be best if there is no GPA requirement for the courses as long as the student is in good academic standing. “History has shown us that many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and drivers of change did not have a high GPA in college, possibly because they were highly non-conformist,” says Heikenfeld. Undergraduate students from any college can take the courses and there are no prerequisites. Additionally, the certificate is comprised of Breadth of Knowledge courses for 16 credit hours which fit easily into each student’s curriculum, without delaying graduation.
Core courses within the certificate focus on understanding the process of transformative innovation, with the goal of developing students who think creatively and critically. Students need to be confident enough to take risks and be a force for change in their organizations and communities. The certificate program structure provides opportunities for students across the university to collaborate in multidisciplinary environments focusing on problem-solving and innovative approaches to market and societal needs.
Students start in a 3 credit hour introductory course that engages teams of students in solving a “real world” problem identified by a community partner. These projects provide students with the basic skills of innovation, problem solving, and collaboration and a vision of what the entire landscape looks like of the three ‘C’s.
Students then choose one of three focus areas for their certificate that align with the three Cs: commercialization, conceptualization, and change. Each focus area includes a core course created for the certificate and a set of three electives. Students may focus on one C, or take a hybrid of all three.
Each student concludes the certificate by taking a “capstone” course that requires that they finalize and present a portfolio illustrating the process and product of their transformative experience. Upon completion of their UC3 coursework, the students are brought back together for this 1 credit hour capstone that prepares the students for a showcase event in which they present their own portfolio of work and learning outcomes.
The UC3 certificate is tailored for students who want to take their innovative ideas and start building a business of their own right away. Many students have this drive and desire but are cautious because of unanswered questions and doubts. The certificate provides students with answers to their questions about where to start and what the risks are in starting a company.
UC is an ideal place to implement the program as very few universities have the diversity of majors that UC offers (design, business, engineering, medical, music, liberal arts) and far fewer have the vision to bring these disciplines together in structured and supported ways to encourage real collaboration and real community impact. The shared strength of multidisciplinary teams can tackle even the messiest challenges…and the highest impact innovations often occur at the fringes of disciplines.
Every student on campus can become involved in innovation transformation. All majors are enabled to make a broad and exemplary impact on society. For example, engineers can learn how to work with political scientists to pioneer improved national science and technology policies.
The program has been setup such that UC students achieve the certificate with no additional coursework or cost to the students (UC3 courses count for ‘breadth of knowledge’ credits).
Heikenfeld commented on the CEAS perspective of the track: “It’s especially important to get engineers involved in the track because the technologies they create are a key driver of economic prosperity world-wide, but they need some guidance if they are to start their own companies. We learn from our failures, and we must encourage students to use their time here wisely by working with the wonderful advisors and substantial resources available to them.”
Upon completing the certificate, UC3 students will be able to
In fall semester 2013, the track will be open across the university. This certificate mobilizes the strengths of UC’s colleges and programs consistent with the goals of the UC 2019 Academic Plan.