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University of Detroit, Mercy Student Priorities

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Project #1 (Spring 2016): I&E with Incentive

The priority is to increase the knowledge of I&E on campus

On UDM’s campus, there is plenty of room to expand the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Ecosystem. Few students recognize I&E outside of designated classes, and getting more of the student body to become more involved in I&E is necessary to further develop the ecosystem. There have been I&E groups that existed on campus but do not any longer, and the goal of this project is to expand upon what has been learned from those previous projects. The goal is to create something that has a lasting and influential effect on the I&E ecosystem at UDM, as well as overall student experience on campus.

The idea for this project, ultimately, is to create a new group on campus which has meetings with content that varies entirely with one thing in common: a focus in expanding the members’ knowledge of I&E so that they may move forward with their own ideas. The meetings of this group can include anything from I&E workshops, lectures, and speakers, to tours, competitions, and just brainstorming discussions. Here’s the catch: there will be some form of point system and whichever students accumulate the most points by a certain time will be rewarded. These rewards are referred to as the incentives, and the reasons why incentives are necessary are explained below.

Here’s components of the project broken down

  1. Capturing students’ attention without intimidating them with the words Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Groups with the words Innovation or Entrepreneurship scare some students away; they think “oh this is cool but I don’t think I want to open a business.” Or “I don’t think this will help me get a job.” Students at UDM are extremely career-focused and are driven to join groups because they know it looks good on a resume down the road. They also look for what they can get out of groups altogether, and seldom join groups "just for fun" because they are far too busy with schoolwork. By rewording the name of the group, we don’t scare students away, and we can make the group look good on a resume too. This group should include anyone who wants to make change on campus, and won't be exclusively for engineering or business. We want the liberal arts as well as medical students. We won't focus on the words "innovation" and "entreprenuership" but we will teach and show how effective those words are for any major.

  1. Provide an incentive to promote involvement and lasting commitment

An incentive will make getting early attention easy. Since this is open to any major, won't have an intimidating name, and provides cool prizes to be won by participating, students will be far more likely to go to those first meetings that form the base population of the group. Not only will it look good on thier resumes, but they have a chance of winning something they really wnat! Incentives can include anything from co-op positions to perhaps the chance to apply to be a UIFellow. Participating in the group and earning "points" in a system (will be explained below) will be how the members win the incentives.

The incentives are a key part of the project. Earlier I&E groups on campus have existed and then eventually fizzled out. This group is created with the intention of longevity. For the group to last, students have to WANT to be a part of the group. The group cannot forced into existence by a faculty member or a student who will eventually graduate. Students will be participating, working towards earning one of the incentives, and the ways they earn points are through methods of developing their individual knowledge of I&E or developing the ecosystem on campus. Since students always come up with reasons why they are too busy to do the work of making change on campus, this offers a background motive for solving the problems they want to fix anyhow. Therefore, working towards the incentives gets them to take action and become passionate about what they are doing within the group.

  1. Award points in different categories to make sure winners are well-rounded

The point system works like this: Points are awarded for different reasons by administrators of the group. The points will be given, first of all, for attendance. This will make sure we won't ever have any empty meetings. Points will be awarded for participation; Students will be rewarded for being actively involved and productive with challenges, discussions, and group projects. This also gives students reasons for going on and completing projects on their own time. Points will be awarded for group upkeep: things like fundraising and marketing. This ensures increasing membership by rewarding students for bringing in new students or posting on social media about joining or group activity.If students truly want to win, they will have to cultivate their I&E knowledge and take action!

The point system also ensures well-rounded winners which is extremely important with prizes like a co-op position. A problem with a previously existing group was that students who won a design competition won a co-op job, but they proved to be “much less than satisfactory employees” and were poor representatives of UDM. With this new group, more than just design ability can be taken into account when awarding points. Students will be awarded more points at meetings for professionalism in addition to I&E qualities. The other aspect of this group relating to producing well-rounded students is that improving students I&E knowledge and abilities will make them more impressive in the co-op positions. They will be great representatives of UDM by exhibiting what they learned while being a member of the group.

  1. Meetings will vary

The meetings will be high energy and entertaining. They will expose students to new methods of thinking, to new people, and will open door on and off campus for them. In addition to learning about I&E themselves, the meetings will promote them developing their own ideas. We don't even have to focus on the terms "innovation" and "entrepreneurship" because the activities will be instilling these ideas and qualities in a fun and interactive way. The goal is to have students initially join because of incentives, but have students continue to attend meetings because they learn quality material and are having fun at the same time (i.e. learning in a fun way much like the UIF Annual Meetups).

  1. Members’ passion will increase attendance and attention around campus

Again, the point system gives the group some extra power: points could be awarded for promoting the group. Individual member may get more points by getting more people to come, or for posting something on social media, or for hanging a poster on campus. Because the meetings are fun as well as educational, it shouldn’t be too hard to convince members to join, and gain passion from members as they realize their own potential to make changes happen on campus. Everyone will know who to go to when they want to change something on campus, as well as what their own peers are working on.

  1. The group will not be entirely technical-based

We want to get more than just the engineers involved: all students know there are lots of things that can be improved on campus and instead of just complaining about it, this group will provide the knowledge for students to make change happen themselves. This will focus on innovation, not just in design, but in looking at a situation and seeing where the holes are. The group will teach members how to creatively patch those holes with the resources they have available. This makes the group even more marketable, and spread I&E beyond those who walk through the doors of the engineering building.

Written by Sarah Mauser

Related Links

University of Detroit, Mercy

Univesity of Detroit, Mercy

University Innovation Fellows

Spring 2016:

Sarah Mauser