Following my stint as the CLAHS interim associate dean for research and graduate studies, a limited-term role replacing a colleague on a research leave, starting January 2019 I was given an opportunity to lead the Creativity+Innovation community, one of Virginia Tech’s Destination Areas.
In its brief, barely 3-year history, C+I has undergone a number of transformations, and has attained several important milestones. It has a new Pathways Minor in Innovation. Another in the works in the area of Creative Technologies + Experiences (CT+E). We are exploring partnerships with the Honors College on a Laureate Diploma. The community was given space in the historical Media Building and we have identified other potential collaborative spaces that may be at our disposal. Being a part of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) and its mission, with over 70 projects C+I also offers one of the largest research portfolios among all Virginia Tech DAs. The C+I already has 9 hires and faculty have already begun teaching key courses and develop new initiatives.
Although I have been involved in the C+I’s development since its inception, this is the first time I have been given an opportunity to lead it. As I continue working with colleagues and C+I stakeholders towards making this critical transdisciplinary initiative a success, I will periodically add notable milestones to this page.
Fast-forward to the August of 2021. Since I stepped into this role, C+I has hit a number of critical milestones:
- Launched Innovation interdisciplinary Pathways minor, first such minor among all the Destination Areas
- Launched Creativity + Innovation Honors Diploma, first such diploma among the Destination Areas, and second at the Virginia Tech campus
- We are in the final stages of launching Design Tech, C+I’s second Pathways minor
- Integrated the Human-Centered Design (HCD) interdisciplinary individualized PhD program, a part of the Virginia Tech Graduate School’s IGEP initiative
- C+I has been completely restructured to include a group of 16 faculty co-leads and 5 co-advisors, with roles distributed across 5 working groups:
- Diversity+Inclusion+Equity (first such working group as part of a Destination Area)
- Education (focusing on curricular development)
- Engagement (that seeks to promote student engagement and outreach)
- Experience+ (a group of faculty and students focusing on real-world research opportunities)
- Infrastructure (a working group that seeks to develop and optimally utilize interdisciplinary spaces)
- C+I was granted the use of the historic Media Building and we were able to secure ~$500,000 towards its renovation to ensure compliance and support necessary upgrades to promote better use of the available space
- Established periodic newsletter and online social media presence via Facebook and Twitter
- Revamped the C+I website
- Introduced first-of-a-kind Transdisciplinary Summer Curriculum initiative with a shared revenue model designed to promote its sustainability while providing resources for both the stakeholder units and the C+I
- Funded a creation of new transdisciplinary courses through a series of SEAD grants that were co-funded in collaboration with Virginia Tech ICAT and the Center for Humanities
- Sought shared faculty positions through a newfound grassroots shared revenue model
- Supported a number of events, workshops, symposia, and the annual ICAT-organized Creativity+Innovation Day that brought all the Destination Areas together
- Introduced the Immersive Audio research working group, first such working group that connected faculty across the entire campus with the common interest in immersive audio
- Grew the community to 130+ faculty
- In the fall 2020 C+I launched the new theme “The Year of Student Creativity + Innovation”, attracting over 50+ students despite being confined to online-only instruction and community-building due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Spawned partnerships with the industry and began building the external donor network
Looking back, I am amazed at just how far we have come. In less than three years with limited resources, we have grown from an aspirational community to a transdisciplinary curricular powerhouse. Yet, with the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, the world has changed in unforeseen and dramatic ways. Our University’s leadership has also seen a significant turnover and with it the shift in University’s priorities. Regardless what the future brings, I am proud of transdisciplinary foundations C+I has established, milestones that have irreversibly transformed the university and the way we approach inter- and transdisciplinary education. Most importantly, I am thankful for all the moments I have shared with my fellow transdisciplinarians without whom none of this would’ve been possible.