May 02, 2017
As the first degree program of its kind, the Bachelor of Innovation has had trouble being marketed to students, many of whom still don’t know it exists.
Since it was first offered in fall 2007, the program has grown to include 19 different majors, including digital film-making, electrical engineering, chemistry and music, among others, spanning over four separate colleges.
Three of these majors, game design and development, computer security and inclusive early childhood education, are only available as BI degrees.
Enrollment has grown from about 75 students in the spring of 2010 to 425 students this semester.
Nina Polok, director of the BI program, said that marketing efforts are focused internally, because current students often misunderstand what exactly the degree program is.
It is a family of degrees that interrelate to innovation courses, she said.
“Usually, when they first hear about it, they think they’re majoring in innovation, but they’re not at all,” she said.
“They’re majoring in their major like computer science or business or early childhood education.”
Glen Whitehead, associate professor of music and professor of innovation courses in the BI program, said that he’s noticed enrollment growth, but that students still aren’t aware of the program.
“It’s hard to get students to learn about the BI degree and all that it has to offer, and that’s actually one of my biggest challenges: to communicate with the larger student body.”
Professors in the program work to provide students with tools to encourage creative thinking. Whitehead believes that all students are creative, they just might not realize it.
“True innovation will take two disconnected areas and connect them to create a whole new product or a whole new idea,” he said.
“This can work across technology, culture, education, environment, all kinds of areas. It’s how new inventions are made.”
Despite efforts to improve awareness of the program, not enough faculty exist to teach the growing student enrollment, said Gregory Stock, management professor and academic director of the BI program. This is another challenge the program will have to resolve as it grows.
Students may not be attracted to the degree program if they feel that they are not innovative enough, but Polok said that innovation is effective through team efforts.
“If you look at it in total, there are a tremendous number of roles in the innovation process,” she said. “Even if you’re not the great creative idea generator, there are all kinds of other things you might be good at in that process.”
The BI program is important for the Colorado Springs community, which is gaining an understanding of the program’s value through working directly with innovation teams at UCCS to create projects and solve problems.
“It’s really helpful for the community to know what we’re doing, because they may want to participate and be a client for one of those innovation teams,” Polok said.
The BI program also uses Google AdWords for advertising. According to Polok, this program shows up at the top of the list if you search “innovation degree.” The school pays Google according to how many people click on the degree.
Polok estimates that it costs between $3,000-$4,000 per year for this advertising and said that it’s relatively inexpensive.
As students and prospective families visit UCCS, Polok and other program faculty meet with those who have heard about the program and are interested in pursuing one of the majors offered.
“We are still of the size where we do a lot of individual meetings with folks, so I’ve had probably 10 or so meetings already this semester with a parent and a prospective student,” Polok said.
“We’re all connected, in so many profound ways,” Whitehead said.
More information about the program and its courses can be found at innovation.uccs.edu