Priorities:University of Cincinnati Faculty Project

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Project Name: NEXT Innovation Scholars Program Launch

Project by Faculty Innovation Fellows Candidate Aaron Bradley

Why is this project important to you, your department, & your Fellows?

We’ve been blessed with a generous budget and runway to build a signature cross-disciplinary innovation program with potential to impact hundreds of students if we can show the value during this pilot period. It’s an institutional priority, and a chance to build something with lasting legacy.


NEXT Innovation Scholars is a cohort-based program that will develop forward-thinking problem-solvers with the skills and mindsets to drive innovation in a complex world. This university-wide program will integrate with students’ traditional degree to avoid adding additional years of study. A diverse, cross-disciplinary cohort of 10-20 high-potential students will be selected each year and remain in the program throughout their undergraduate career. Each student admitted to the program will receive an annual full tuition scholarship plus additional educational expenses, professional development training, and immersive travel experiences. Proposed programming includes:

  • Cross-disciplinary design challenges with commercial industry and cause-based organizations
  • Structured opportunities for professional mentorship and networking through local, regional and national networks of alumni and leaders in the field of innovation
  • Additional layers of faculty advising and peer mentorship
  • Completion of specific cross-disciplinary innovation coursework

Stakeholders served

  • High potential UC students with cross disciplinary curiosity, grit and resilience, and collaborative leadership characteristics
  • UC students in majors/disciplines and programs not traditionally associated with “innovation” at our institution or in our region; examples include humanities and social sciences, nursing, medicine, music, etc. Many of these populations feel they’re not welcomed or invited to the table when it comes to being “innovative” because there’s been such a heavy emphasis on innovation linked to tech, design, and start-ups.
  • Industry partners and collaborators in the Cincinnati Innovation District, companies co-located in our 1819 Innovation Hub
  • Managers/directors of existing university programs/initiatives associated with innovation
  • High-achieving high school seniors who with cross disciplinary curiosity and/or an interest in focusing on innovation, and are applying to universities or making college decisions

Key Milestones

  • December 2021: Finalize professional mentor network and establish 1:1 mentor connection for each student in cohort 1; Complete first team-based project
  • March 2022: Define process and begin review of candidates for cohort 2; Define and finalize first “Innovation Immersion Experience”
  • June 2022: Onboard and begin preliminary programming for cohort 2
  • September 2022: Offer first program-specific course
  • December 2022: Offer first student-led innovation training or event
  • March 2023: Define and finalize additional “Innovation Immersion Experience” in new location

An Innovation Portfolio

  • Course description/syllabus for newly created innovation/design thinking course(s)
  • Weekly outline for industry-partnered short-term (3-6 week) innovation projects
  • End of year student reflection prompt
  • Innovation advising facilitators outline
  • Professional mentor program description