idea746 students, 72 hours, 31 projects, ONE giant idea. About two years ago, Bryant Professor Michael Roberto had a dream; just one thought that he and a few other colleagues wrote down on a one-page memo about bringing an innovative new program to all Freshmen students. Dreams sometimes become reality, and the Innovation and Design Experience for All (IDEA) Program was completed by all returning members of Bryant’s Class of 2016 from January 21st through the 23rd 2013.

The three-day experience was meant to challenge the norms of problem solving
and introduce a new way of thinking called “design thinking,” which is a process of observation, brainstorming, and rapid prototyping. The basis for this type of structure comes from a company called IDEO, who describes themselves on their website as “an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow.”

“We all were on a new adventure, one unlike any other in Bryant’s 150-year history,” said Professor Roberto. And what an adventure it was. Along with the 746 first- year students who participated, there were 31 student, 31 faculty, 31 staff, and 31 alumni mentors who volunteered to coach and guide participants through the experience.

The entire first-year class was broken down first into 31 cohorts, each with a different challenge they had to solve, and then into five teams of five within each cohort. Each cohort had one student, one faculty, one staff, and one alumni adviser that facilitated different sessions and were the main drivers of this new innovation style of thinking.

In order to let the IDEA Program participants have the campus to themselves,the first-year students arrived three days prior to the normal start date of the Spring Semester, and 31 lucky student mentors cut their Winter Break short to join them. These 31 student mentors were chosen from a pool of applicants back in November from the Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) Honor Society.

Already some of Bryant’s top student leaders and academic performers, these student mentors were the lifeline between the first-year students and the IDEA Program Planning Committee. They were tasked with leading their cohorts to and from the largest field trip in Bryant’s history – 800 students on buses to Providence for field observations – as well as a community service project where teams made scarves for less fortunate children in the Providence area, and celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by reflecting on some of his most famous quotations.

The first-year students were not the only ones learning and challenging their thinking process throughout the three days. Tyler Holden said, “After Bryant IDEA, every time I see a product I think about the innovative process to construct the design rather than the physicality.”

“The IDEA program helped me to grow as a leader and make amazing connections within the Bryant community. There aren’t any other opportunities that allow you to connect with faculty, staff, alumni, fellow student leaders, and freshmen,” said student mentor Delaney Carr.

For Senior Kyle Nyskohus it was about learning how to “bridge the gap between business and design…At IDEA my peers and professors engaged with each other to come up with incredible solutions to open-ended problems in ways I had not experienced before at Bryant.”

Turning this “IDEA” into reality would never have been possible if not for the efforts of the Program Planning Committee. Made up of seven members, there was a ton of responsibility: training faculty, staff, and student mentors, transporting 800 freshmen on buses to Providence, logistically fitting 155 teams into the MAC comfortably, and keeping everyone busy for 72 hours straight. Special thanks goes out to these remarkable individuals, Kristin Biggins, Lori Coakley, Rich Holtzman, Rich Hurley, Mike Roberto, Jim Segovis, and Bob Shea. “I am so proud of our team, the seven of us on the IDEA leadership team and the entire larger team of mentors,” said Roberto. “We came together to execute a very complex plan, and we worked selflessly to accomplish our mission. Of course, we have lots of ideas to improve the experience next year, but for the first time, I’m very pleased.”

Lori Coakley added, “It was truly amazing to watch these teams of students take an idea from inception to prototype in less than 72 hours. I was both inspired and awestruck with what they accomplished.”

Inspiration seemed to be a common theme as Rich Hurley said, “I was inspired by the collaboration between faculty, staff, and student mentors that was so evident, by the process and journey that our first years experienced, and [also] by the overall feeling of an alive and thriving Bryant community.”

Change is difficult. Challenging the conventional ways that we know how to solve a problem in less than 72 hours seemed impossible on that first day. But with passion, determination, and open minds, Bryant first- year students and their faculty, staff, student, and alumni mentors made history by completing the first ever Bryant IDEA Program.

In conclusion, note the observation of our highly supportive and innovative President, President Ronald Machtley: “The process of developing the program, from concept to completion, is a model of what great things the Bryant community can accomplish when we set our sights high and work together to achieve ambitious goals. I am extremely proud of what this program represents in terms of preparing students to use the knowledge they obtain for success in real-world situations. Congratulations, everyone!”

First-year students were given one credit for participating and successfully completing the program which is an integral part in the nationally recognized Gateway Experience that Bryant implemented this past Fall.

For more information on the Bryant IDEA program or to see more pictures and videos of the entire experience, please visit the Bryant IDEA Blog at http://bryantidea.