Quad Innovation moves forward digitally, student-led projects

Devon Martinez

dmarti31@uccs.edu 

The Quad Innovation Partnership is moving forward with their fall program digitally, with student-led teams attempting to solve community-scale issues.  

     The program is designed to promote collaboration between students and recent alumni of UCCS and three other Colorado Springs colleges on consulting projects and research initiatives. According to the Quad website, students in the program “build the community they want to live in.”  

     “We experimented with a different kind of research this summer, studying community-scale issues that affect all of us here in Colorado Springs,” said Quad Executive Director Jake Eichengreen. “The students did amazing work.” 

     The Quad will build from projects that began during previous programs and the conception of some new projects. According to Quad Operational Manager Isabelle Cotton several fall projects are using the foundation built during the summer to work in a more action-oriented capacity.  

     One summer project focused on what Eichengreen described as “conceptual research” into understanding public trust and public safety in the community. The team explored mechanisms that create community-scale trust, and a new team will pick up that research this fall.  

     Another summer project that will continue this semester is an investigation into resilience within organizations by equipping Colorado Springs companies with data-driven insight that can better adapt them to unpredictable circumstances.  

     Last fall, student groups began studying pediatric suicide prevention programs for Children’s Hospital Colorado. The goal of the team this year is to find solutions to incorporate the best practices that can help underserved communities in Colorado Springs.  

     A new project this fall includes research and business planning for a low-cost student organization that provides IT support to local non-profit. This involves students testing and piloting ideas that can be used by the organization.  

     According to Eichengreen, a fifth project will be announced soon.  

The quad logo against a blue background.
The Quad logo. Courtesy of the Quad’s website.

     The Quad prides itself on its diversity, as it is the only organization that combines the resources of UCCS, Pikes Peak Community College, the U.S. Air Force Academy and Colorado College, placing interdisciplinary students from each school to work in the same room on consulting projects.  

     COVID-19 took students out of the same room and forced the projects to go digital halfway through the spring semester and for the entire summer program. According to Eichengreen, students adapted well to the new environment. 

     “There’s no substitute for in-person when it comes to building relationships, but we’ve been surprised at how well all of our students have gotten to know each other digitally,” Eichengreen said.  

     Student groups also had to decrease in size because of the shift to digital work. “With being fully digital, we’re going to have smaller teams than in the past—only four or five students for each project,” Cotton said. “Zoom calls tend to be easier with smaller groups.” 

     The average group size was six or seven students for each project, before the Quad went fully digital.  

     One problem the summer students faced was long Zoom calls; the solution for the fall is to decrease the length of those calls. 

     “It can be difficult to dedicate time to video calls, especially when they last 2 hours. This fall, students will be dealing with virtual classes on top of involvement with our program. We’re hoping that limiting our calls to one hour will help make it easier and more enjoyable,” Cotton said.  

     Despite a virtual setting this semester, interest in the Quad programs have increased. Eichengreen attributed this to fewer on-campus extracurriculars, and the opportunity for students to engage in meaningful work. 

     The Quad Innovation Partnership has an Innovative Consulting program for both the fall and spring, a Global Ideas Accelerator for the summer and a 12-month fellowship program. To learn more about these programs and the Quad, visit their website at quadcos.org.