Sept. 21, 2015
On Sept. 10, Terry Boult, El Pomar endowed chair of Innovation and Security, received the Nikola Tesla Award for creating and implementing the Bachelors of Innovation undergraduate degree program at UCCS.
Tesla was a world renowned innovative scientist and futurist that experimented with the concept of wireless lighting and electricity distribution. His leaps in innovative technology inspired the Nikola Tesla Award, awarded by the board of directors of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
“(The Nikola Tesla Award) is prestigious to me because part of what we are doing in the BI is local outreach and partnering with local companies and therefore [the community] is recognizing us for one of our actual goals,” Boult said.
Angus Chassels, professor for Innovation and Basic Entrepreneurship, explains why the BI program is unique.
“Over four years the BI program gives students a deep but portable kit of tools and skills that they can take on to their own ventures, to team meetings, an engineering lab, a startup competition, whatever,” he said in an email.
Boult originally taught at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn. where he founded the Computer Science department. In addition to teaching, he is also the owner of three startup companies.
While he was the chief technology officer of his second company, Boult found it difficult to find adequate workers within the student pool of applicants.
“I couldn’t hire engineering students with the talent I wanted and the business people couldn’t hire business people with the talents I thought they needed because they couldn’t communicate with each other,” he explained.
It was here that Boult realized a problem within the educational system that made the transition for graduating students to the working world difficult.
While colleges are focused on teaching students specific procedures for the workplace, Boult found that students were seriously lacking the skills needed to cope with ambiguity, failure and communication within the work place.
“There is no faster or more supported program if you want to take ideas you have and explore them, turn them into tech or businesses, or a new art form and not wait to do it,” Chassels said. “The BI also has a relatively short but pretty amazing record of creating partnerships and funding opportunities for students.”
“We celebrate the student’s learning, not just their success. Having setbacks and difficulties and learning to get over them is actually a very important learning model,” Boult said.
While teaching at Lehigh, Boult tried and failed to create a degree program that would meet his requirements. After receiving many offers from top ten and Ivy League schools, he decided to come to UCCS and work with the faculty to make the BI concept a reality.
“The core of the BI is this interdisciplinary across a bunch of majors that is truly integrated in what it is teaching and how it teaches. You are working together with students across all these different disciplines on a range of topics,” Boult said.
Boult credited executive director Nina Pollock, Rory Lewis in the college of engineering and Greg Stock in the college of business as well as instructors Colleen Stiles, Angus Chassels and Cassandra Harn for their variety of backgrounds and skills that add to the program.
Although Boult thinks the BI program will not ultimately replace a BS degree any time soon, he does see the potential for an Innovation minor that will allow any major to have the opportunity to experience the unique teaching structure.
With the BI program attracting more international and global attention, Boult said he is excited to see what the future holds.