Purdue launching Innovation College to spark new learning

The hub that is set to debut next fall in collaboration with Butler will help prepare students for the future by developing unique ideas around instruction.
By: | November 30, 2020
Purdue students work on research projects in a campus lab. (Purdue University photo)

Purdue University and a number of higher education institutions in Indiana are transforming how they are approaching teaching and readying students for a future where unknowns may be the norm.

In trying to meet the needs of a changing student body and workforce, Purdue will launch a virtual hub called “Innovation College” in the fall of 2021, aiming to advance instruction by “encouraging faculty and staff to move outside of specific fields of study to create transdisciplinary learning programs and courses.”

One of the immediate goals of the Innovation College is to further discussions on evaluating students based on knowledge and competency skills, not on time spent in physical lecture rooms.

“Innovation College will give us the opportunity to really experiment with and try out very progressive kinds of programs that higher education needs in the 21st century,” said Gary Bertoline, dean of Purdue’s  Polytechnic Institute. “We’ve learned that we have to reinvent ourselves and try new things. This will create new curriculum opportunities that involve all disciplines to develop better teaching methods that will enhance learning for the students’ benefit.”

Purdue is targeting the beginning of 2021 to start implementing those ideas while developing new instruction methods and curriculum. It will get assistance from, and have a creative working relationship through, a partnership with neighboring Butler University.

“Collaboration between Purdue’s Innovation College and the Butler Beyond Transformation Lab will enhance innovation at both institutions by leveraging each university’s strengths for the common good,” said Kathryn Morris, Butler’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “I am confident that this partnership between Purdue and Butler will lead to new ideas to equip students with the transdisciplinary skills sets needed to both succeed in the future and to address some of society’s complex challenges.”

Helped by a $5 million grant from Lilly Endowment as part of Charting the Future for Indiana’s Colleges and Universities, the Innovation College will help prep students for new jobs and roles that have not been created. The grant is one of two given via the endowment that will assist the state’s 38 higher ed institutions in seeking out and developing new career pathways for students.

“We’re educating and graduating students for jobs that not only don’t yet exist, but could be dominant in society and the economy in the future,” said Rhonda Phillips, dean of Purdue’s Honors College and the program’s co-coordinator. “We’ve got to be able to generate flexible, interdisciplinary thinkers and creative thinkers who are able to adapt and respond to these changes.”

Purdue and Butler plan to create a committee of at three faculty fellows that will meet frequently with “students and stakeholders for reviewing proposals of problems, projects and curriculum.”

The university has targeted the summer of 2022 to have “a faculty development program and five new transdisciplinary programs of study” in place.

“Innovation College is a way to help take those transformational ideas and scale them up so we can get the full impact of them at Purdue through our partnership with Butler and beyond,” Phillips said.