The UCCS exclusive Bachelor of Innovation degree program trains the innovators of tomorrow by teaching critical innovative and team-building skills.
Founded by Terry Boult, El Pomar endowed professor of innovation and security, the Bachelor of Innovation program is a twist on the typical Bachelor of Arts or Science degrees, which traditionally supplement students’ majors with either humanities or science-based classes. The B.I. courses focus on innovation and entrepreneurship.
Although entrepreneurship is a key component in the innovation program, the courses teach students to be innovators in their respective fields.
Benjamin Kwitek, the director of innovation at UCCS, said, “Innovation is much larger than entrepreneurship. You can be innovative as a social worker, an educator, a psychologist, a computer scientist or as a marketing person. Innovation is really something that transcends discipline; in our view… [innovation] is the transformation of ideas into impact.”
Kwitek hopes that those who go through the program leave with a different mindset about problems and problem-solving. He said, “It’s almost a philosophy of saying that ‘the world has a lot of problems, but we need to solve them.’ And the way we solve them is by coming up with solutions that haven’t yet been tried.”
The mentality of problem-solving and collaboration instilled through the program creates desirable employees for hiring companies who tend to fast-track to leadership positions, according to Kwitek. Students that graduate from one of the B.I. programs have been successful when entering the workforce.
Kwitek said, “Companies love that because it’s not just somebody who’s doing what they’re told in their job description, but someone who expands beyond that says, ‘let’s make this organization more effective at what it does.’ So, we found that our students, even very early in their tenure with companies, tend to be leading.”
According to the UCCS website, “Each B.I. degree is comprised of emphasis major courses, the innovation core, a cross-disciplinary core, and general education courses.”
These innovation core courses include Introduction to Entrepreneurship, The Innovation Process, and Business and Intellectual Property Law. Those not pursuing a B.I. degree can take some of the core classes; however, enrollment preference is given to those inside the program.
The innovation core ends with a capstone project, and students will build a portfolio of work they accomplished throughout the courses to be used when applying for employment. Kwitek believed that the variety of experiences students take part in will put them ahead of their competition in the workforce.
He said, “When they apply for a job at Google or Lockheed Martin or wherever it might be — if they’re not starting their own company or venture — they can go in saying, ‘Okay, here’s some of my work, things that I’ve done, teams from actual companies that I’ve worked with, and here’s what I stand for.’”
There are 23 majors available for the B.I. degree, including majors from the Colleges of Business, Engineering and Applied Sciences, LAS and Education. The Game Design and Development major is exclusive to the B.I. program.
Kwitek said they are looking to add more majors.
Professors and instructors are chosen to teach B.I. courses not just on their academic qualifications but also on their real-world experience in innovation and passion for teaching the next generation of innovators. “We’re still a very small group of people who teach these innovation classes,” he said.
“It’s a group of people that tend to think different, that are entrepreneurs or are innovators in their own right. And educating is something that’s a passion for them. So they’re not in the classroom because it’s their job. They’re in the classroom because that’s where they want to be because it’s fun or it’s fulfilling, or it’s all of those things to them,” Kwitek said.
Kwitek believes there is a disconnect between universities and their surrounding communities. He thinks the program builds open-minded, collaborative leaders who desire to impact their community positively.
He said, “Universities need to be connected to the community. Not only to the students coming from high schools, but to the business community, to the nonprofits, and the local governments, so that they can all focus on fixing problems and collaborating in ways that make the community a better place to live.”
Students interested in joining the B.I. program are encouraged to speak to their adviser or email Kwitek at [email protected].