Headshot of Professor Butler superimposed over background of sticky notes
IDEA organizers, led by Allison Butler, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Director of the Bryant IDEA Program (inset), chose to have one overarching design challenge: How might we elevate empathy, social connection, and community in a COVID world? Students will tackle this question from multiple angles.
Bryant IDEA goes global in 2021
Dec 16, 2020, by Staff Writer

Since the inception of the Bryant IDEA (Innovation and Design Experience for All) program nine years ago, IDEA has helped build a campus-wide culture that advances design thinking, curiosity, critical thinking and the creativity needed to solve real-world problems.

This year, the transformational program for first-year students goes virtual and therefore global, providing students with real-world experience using virtual collaboration tools for digital brainstorming and digital storyboarding. More than 800 students – with nearly 250 faculty, staff, student and alumni mentors in locations around the globe – will engage in innovation, virtual collaboration, and design thinking during IDEA 2021 Jan. 26-29. Renowned innovation expert Duncan Wardle, former Head of Innovation and Creativity at Disney, serves as the keynote.

IDEA in a COVID world

For nearly a decade, Bryant students have used the design thinking method (Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test) to address real problems for regional organizations. Prior design challenges have included addressing hunger in the community, enhancing tourism in Providence, and increasing voter turnout.

This year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, IDEA organizers chose to have one overarching design challenge: How might we elevate empathy, social connection, and community in a COVID world? Students will tackle this question from different angles, including healthcare, seniors and senior care facilities, education, small business owners, remote corporate employees, hospitality, and more.

"This year, we also want students to learn the value of empathy for building community, embracing diversity, and empowering successful leadership."

With Bryant’s commitment to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, IDEA 2021 will focus on the first phase of the design thinking process: empathy. According to Allison Butler, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Director of the Bryant IDEA Program, “We want students to understand the essential role of empathy in design thinking, but this year, we also want students to learn the value of empathy for building community, embracing diversity, and empowering successful leadership. Students will hear an action-oriented keynote address from Shola Kaye, a London-based expert in empathy, and then engage in a workshop to develop a 30-day empathy plan.”

IDEA has long modeled the philosophy of continuous improvement. Refinements for IDEA 2021 include smaller cohort sizes (20 students instead of 25), multiple keynote speakers, a sponsor panel discussion, and adding a fourth day to the previous three-day bootcamp. This year’s virtual program will ignite the innovative, gritty spirit needed for the next four years at Bryant, and beyond.

2021 IDEA Leadership Team

The 2021 IDEA Leadership Team – representing dedicated faculty from the College of Business and College of Arts and Sciences, professional staff, and students – includes:

First-Year Gateway Experience

IDEA is a key component of Bryant’s immersive and uniquely integrated First-Year Gateway Experience, the foundational program built around fundamental questions regarding the role of the individual and groups in a fast-paced, ever changing world. Through the required 13-credit program, students examine Global Foundations of Character and Leadership, and Global Foundations of Organizations and Business, along with a writing course and introduction to literature. The Gateway program has been acclaimed by organizations including the Davis Foundation and Hanover Research.

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