Freshmen tap into real-world experiential learning at Bryant

Bryant University freshmen are participating in a four-day entrepreneurship program aimed at encouraging connecting with mentors as they try to solve real-world problems and innovate. More

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Freshmen tap into real-world experiential learning at Bryant

BRYANT UNIVERSITY freshmen are in the midst of a four-day entrepreneurship program designed to prepare them to solve problems that they may encounter once they leave the university.
Posted 1/21/14

SMITHFIELD – Bryant University freshmen are participating in a four-day entrepreneurship program aimed at encouraging connecting with mentors as they try to solve real-world problems and innovate.

The program, dubbed Innovation Design Experience for All, began Sunday and remains on schedule to run through Wednesday, despite the impending winter storm.

The IDEA program is part of the university’s First-Year Gateway Experience, a 13-credit core curriculum that targets improvement of first-year students’ writing proficiency, critical thinking, cultural awareness and ethical reasoning.

Now in its second year, the First-Year Gateway initiative was created to prepare students for working in real-world situations, said University President Ronald K. Machtley.

“This year the IDEA program takes it one step further with an emphasis on developing successful business leaders,” he said in a prepared statement.

The IDEA program is a 72-hour immersion experience designed to cultivate crucial teamwork and creative problem-solving skills. The one-credit IDEA course consists of an experiential learning program in which students are taught to apply the design thinking process to “real world” situations, ranging from arts to social services to business.

Two building blocks for creating innovations in any field are taught: design thinking and teamwork. Each team, aided by faculty, alumni and executive mentors, is assigned to a project based on student preferences. Curriculum emphasis is on forming original, innovative ideas, then putting them into a workable business plan, and building a software model to bring the idea to fruition.

At the end of the 72-hour IDEA marathon, Bryant’s 900 first-year students who have collaborated in small groups will present their proposals to be evaluated by outside judges. Prizes will be awarded to top teams.

“Our freshman courses are structured to develop students poised to become entrepreneurs,” said Bryant University Professor of Management Michael Roberto. “We will achieve this by becoming the first university to offer a multi-layered mentoring system that will include support for each freshman from four key influencers – a teacher, staff member, upperclassman and alumnus.”

Some ideas that students will be bringing to fruition this semester include the redesign of college classrooms to enhance learning, improve satisfaction, and increase faculty-student interaction and the reduction of the carbon footprint of shopping malls.

The Gateway program has been a success, according to the university. After the first year, there was a higher retention of students from freshman to sophomore year and fewer freshmen were put on academic probation. In addition, there were more students on the Dean’s List (3.2 GPA or above) and more on the President’s List (4.0).

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