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Converse College Student Priorities

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Contents

Project Pitch Video

Overview

Converse College was founded on the radical idea that young women deserved a space designed for them to pursue higher education. Since that first year, Converse has continued to help women find their voice, understand their true value, and pursue their vision.  As times change, however, so must we. How might we continue to adapt Converse’s founding principles in order to serve a new generation of women?

We, as students, are entering a post-graduation landscape far different than that of our predecessors. Steeped in technology and connected on a global scale, the tools we need to be successful in the world outside Converse’s campus are ever-changing. It is time for us to foster an innovative, creative ecosystem where failure is nothing but a starting and learning point, and problems are nothing but opportunities. 

Priority 1: Spark Student Interest

Converse has a longstanding tradition of self-governance. A large portion of her students hold leadership positions on campus. Converse itself is student-regulated, adhering to a unique honor code. The student body is an​ active one, fully involved in the creation and ideation of Converse's future. In any given year, students plan fundraisers to help crisis centers and cancer research institutes, organize trips to serve all over the United States and abroad, perform institutional research, and design new and exciting clubs to promote student involvement. Converse students aren't uninterested; they simply need to be shown value. 

Despite their passionate involvement on and off campus, most Converse students simply aren't aware of entrepreneurship and innovation on any scale. Those who are aware of it are intimidated; they equate entrepreneurship with Fortune 500 companies and their firm belief in their inability to succeed. Converse's most popular majors are education, visual and performing arts, the humanities, and social sciences. All fields are integrated. Therefore, there is an imminent need for students in ALL majors to be well acquainted with and experienced in an entrepreneurial, innovative, and collaborative culture.

Priority One speaks to that process. Entrepreneurship and Innovation, in this case, are not about venture creation, maker spaces, or new engineering departments. They are about the tools and skills an entrepreneur learns that can be applied to every career path. This process is about speaking to the interests of our student body, and introducing them to skills and themes that can help them in all disciplines.

INDUCTING AN I&E ORGANIZATION WITHIN SGA

SGA organizations have tremendous exposure and support on campus. Students need and benefit from a cohesive outlet for their leadership in I&E. Inducting a student led I&E organization through the SGA well enable the UI Fellow and other leaders within the organization to host speakers, buy supplies, run advertising campaigns, pay for field trips to regional accelerators, organize business pitch competitions etc. in order to help students discover I&E. Once the UIF Fellow graduates, the organization will remain and continue to prosper with new leadership. 

Priority 2: Establish a mutually beneficial relationship between Converse initiatives and Converse curricula

EXTRA CREDIT FOR ATTENDING I&E EVENTS ON/OFF CAMPUS

Securing faculty and staff members’ approval for extra credit opportunities will provide great incentive to students. They will take up extra credit opportunities, venture outside their comfort zone, and return to their classroom and campus with a conviction to learn more and do more.

I&E COMPONENT TO CONVOCATION SERIES

Students are required to attend a number of events in different categories every semester in order to develop all aspects of the collegiate spirit. These events span everything from art installations to resume building workshops.

The I&E Convocation Credit component is related to the extra credit proposal above, in that both avenues provide ways to learn more about technology, communication, and creativity outside the traditional spaces of learning.

Priority 3: Create opportunities for all students to be engaged with I&E

Once students are aware of I&E on a grander scale, they can start building the skills necessary to be successful. This priority section focuses primarily on building the skills of Innovation and Entrepreneurship applicable to all disciplines.


LEADERSHIP RETREAT TRAINING

A large portion of Converse's student body holds a leadership position on campus. Once a year, these students converge in a weekend leadership retreat, where they learn the basics of heading the coalitions and student boards they will be taking part in the entire school year. These students are go-getters- they have run for office, started organizations, and serve as extensions of student life.

During this retreat, the principles of design thinking could be taught through placing students in small groups and asking them to tackle a problem creatively. They can move from rapidly brainstorming solutions to presenting their day’s work. This process will strengthen their ability to work in high stress situations, communicate with an interdisciplinary group, quickly prototype and roll out potential solutions, and learn from failures. Use of this model rather than preaching the tenets of leadership would be a fast paced way to get these students immersed in I&E culture while also learning tangible skills that will aid them throughout the school year and beyond. 

Priority 4: Increase Community-Converse Partnerships

UIF FELLOWS COALITION

One of Converse’s largest and mostly untapped advantages is its location in proximity to Wofford College, another UIF school. Other, regional UIF universities with more developed I&E ecosystems include Furman and Clemson.

In planning regional events with colleges like Wofford, Clemson, and Furman, and directing students to resources that Converse may not be able to produce on its own, students will be able to interact with and learn from campus communities right outside their space.

Priority 5: Create Pipeline for I&E Students

In developing students' passion about this movement, we must also understand that they require a path necessary to follow once they are dedicated. Priority four is tasked primarily with the development of concrete institutional pathways which these students can easily navigate. 

INTERDISCIPLINARY, COLLEGE-COMMUNITY BASED PROGRAMMING

An area of potentially impactful growth is the establishment of sustainable relationships between Converse and Spartanburg area businesses and nonprofits. Converse already offers team taught courses, bridging disciplines like English and Biology to give students a new perspective in various topics. We propose that business focused students pair up with students in other disciplines to form new solutions for problems. As a school with a history in social entrepreneurship, solving problems in innovative, business focused ways would be a natural progression in programming. These programs could be tailored to help external entities like the Rape Crisis Center, the regional school system, and local nonprofits. 


Related Links

Converse College

Converse College Student Priorities

Business Model Canvas

Converse College Project Pitch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0cd6s6FWAI

University Innovation Fellows

Spring 2016:

Sanuja Goonetiieke

Spring 2015:

Nadia Gathers