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The VCU da Vinci Center for Product Innovation Lead Institution: Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA Category: Course/Curricular Date Implemented: 2007 Website: Program Description: An initial collaboration of Virginia while engaging in the capstone project. The criteria of novelty/ Commonwealth University's (VCU) Schools of the Arts, aesthetics, fit/synergy, and technical capability/feasibility are Business, and Engineering, the da Vinci Center for Innovation's employed; these criteria correspond to Arts, Business, Engi- aims are to (1) prepare students to enter a product innovation neering, Humanities, and Science dimensions, respectively; and career; (2) catalyze innovation through interdisciplinary (3) Hone teamwork skills faculty mentors evaluate students collaboration among the disciplines of the Arts, Business, during the capstone course on their abilities to work collabora- Engineering, Humanities, and Sciences; and (3) serve as a tively as team members. Students also conduct a 360 evaluation resource for advancing interdisciplinary innovation and that includes themselves and their team members. Since 2009, entrepreneurship. Center offerings include an undergraduate student participation in the da Vinci Center has grown exponen- Certificate in Product Innovation, continuing education pro- tially. A significant reason is the offering of a Seminar in grams, and a Master of Product Innovation. The primary Product Innovation, a speaker series open to all students. purpose is to develop analytical, creative, Student feedback consistently mentions how and team skills in students and prepare them the capstone experience broadens their to achieve leadership roles in companies and thinking about innovation and working agencies. These skills come from intensive across disciplines. Our company sponsors engagement with real problems in real are satisfied with student deliverables and settings, working with students and faculty continue to serve as sponsors. from complementary disciplines as well as Assessment Information: Regular meetings representatives of corporate affiliates and other partners. All da with the deans from the Schools of the Arts, Business, and Vinci Center programs embrace innovation from an interdisci- Engineering are held to review Center programs. An annual plinary perspective and do so by bringing in learning from report is produced. Student appraisals are collected. Alumni of multiple disciplines. This corresponds to a focus on creating "T the program are just now beginning their careers and stay -shaped people," which is advocated by Tim Brown, CEO and connected to the Center and with each other largely because of president of IDEO. The "T-shaped people" model portrays their positive experiences. They will be followed and asked students as deep in one disciplinary area (e.g., arts, business, or periodically to relate their experiences in the program with the engineering) and augmented with broad knowledge of all requirements of their jobs and their progress in their careers. aspects of innovation activity. Solidifying the product innova- Corporate managers who work with the Center also provide tion experience for undergraduates is a capstone project, which feedback on usefulness of the work product of the teams after synthesizes learning in the program and gives students product the projects are completed. innovation experience. Projects have been company-sponsored, Funding/Sustainability: Project sponsors have included a although there is the possibility of student-initiated projects that number of companies and State of Virginia departments. The reflect an entrepreneurship element by focusing on business Center also has worked with a local entrepreneur to prove a creation upon project completion. The sponsor provides the business/technology concept. The deans of VCU's Schools of project context and is engaged with the student team through the Arts, Business, and Engineering formally established the the semester. Faculty mentors guide the students through the Center with a $150K commitment by the three schools towards semester to ensure project organization, task understanding, and the Center's operation. An interim Director oversaw the Center the meeting of project milestones. Sponsors designate a until fall 2009 when a full-time Director was hired, and a representative to serve as project liaison. Depending upon the program coordinator was hired in June 2010. Current annual needs and expectations of the sponsor and the team, the project operational expenses are approximately $280,000, covering liaison may attend some team meetings. On occasion the team 75% of the Director's salary, 100% of the program coordina- may meet with the team liaison via video conference or travel tor's salary, faculty mentor stipends, project expenses, design to the sponsor's site. Formal meetings with the sponsor occur at lab equipment, and other expenses necessary to enable success- mid-semester and the end of the semester, honing students' ful operations. Since 2007, the only sources of funding have communication skills. been company sponsorships. MWV Foundation has graciously Anticipated and Actual Outcomes: Learning objectives for renewed their support of the Center since its inception. Assum- students are to (1) Gain an understanding of and appreciation ing the Master of Product Innovation meets enrollment goals, for interdisciplinary innovation students are surveyed at the Center will have sufficient funds to support ongoing various points in the program with pre- and post-scores com- operations. The Office of Provost has also indicated a willing- pared to assess understanding and appreciation for interdiscipli- ness to provide the funding to support the Undergraduate nary innovation; (2) Develop product innovation skills Certificate in Product Innovation. Additionally, the Center company sponsors evaluate student teams during the capstone hosts an executive training program in January; all proceeds of course on their abilities to perform product innovation skills this program go to the da Vinci Center. 25