Innovation? Or Free Pass From Class?

Innovation? Or Free Pass From Class?

The whys behind a week dedicated to creativity and innovative thinking on campus

Life can be insanely busy for students and non-students alike, especially near the mid-point of the semester. Rapid changes in technology have only managed to accelerate the pace even more with tweets and Facebook posts competing for our attention. Add in a few energy drinks or Starbucks lattés, and a formula has been created for an environment consisting of go, go, go with little time for pause and reflection.

As part of our Celebrate! Innovation Exhibition, the Des Moines Area Community College West Campus sets aside one week each year to focus exclusively on the importance of creative, innovative thinking. The trade-off? Classes are suspended for two days of that particular week, to allow students to shift gears and concentrate with undivided attention.

The event, referred to as ciWeek, highlights the stories of a variety of people from the “real” world, some famous, others not, who have dreamed, created, inspired, and accomplished. It’s a thought-provoking and highly-interactive week, giving students the opportunity to simply listen, absorb, and engage directly without the stress that comes with the regular class routine. The goal of ciWeek for students—and interested community members—is to meet, acquire knowledge, interact, and become inspired by the dreams and accomplishments of others.

With creativity and innovation as its basis, ciWeek aims to help DMACC students recognize the importance of value (identifying the authentic value of new ideas), process (understanding how new ideas are generated), people (recognizing the who behind the what—how new ideas have been created and championed by everyday people), and context (examining what motivates people to create new ideas and apply them to current problems).

The philosophy for ciWeek is clear and the reasoning behind the temporary suspension of classes is deliberate. How is that rationale translated into practice? ciWeek is built into the syllabi of all spring-term faculty. At the very least, students are required to receive one stamp in their “passports” for each session attended (required attendance at sessions is equivalent or greater to the number of classes a student would normally attend) and faculty keep record of student attendance by initialing each student’s passport.

Holding sessions during normally scheduled class time allows for maximum student participation.

More important than documentation of attendance, however, is the application of knowledge gained. Nearly all faculty also require students to complete assignments relevant to ciWeek activities. These assignments can range from reflective writing assignments to individual or collaborative projects specific to particular sessions, presenters or the week in its entirety.

With an increasing amount of research pointing to deficiencies in the creative and innovative thinking skills of college graduates, deliberately devoting time each year to focus on this important element of personal growth provides value for students, and faculty, at all levels. Holding concurrent sessions and keynote presentations of ciWeek during normally scheduled class time (day and evening) allows for maximum student participation.

ciWeek is unique in many ways, especially through its emphasis on interaction and dynamic, relevant topics. Past speakers have ranged from moonwalking astronauts to deep-sea explorers, from successful entrepreneurs to inventors (including the inventor of the first commercial personal computer), from writers, artists, and musicians to those who create virtual worlds. The event is free to students and the general public alike through the generous contributions of a large number of corporate and organizational sponsors.

In addition, a portion of the week is set aside specifically for high school students with an intense focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). This component of ciWeek is designed to engage and encourage area students in STEM-related fields prior to entering college.

ciWeek continues to expand each year, both in participation and sponsorship. Equally important, the central Iowa community has promoted and truly embraced the importance of the event.


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