Alumni volunteers again played a critical role in Bryant’s IDEA (Innovation and Design Experience for All) program. Nearly a decade since the program was created, more than 120 alumni volunteers came back to campus to share their experience and perspective with the first-year students, either as mentors or trade show judges, or both.
Their contributions help IDEA continue to break new ground as organizers apply the design-thinking principles they teach to evaluate and enhance the program each year.
New in 2020, organizers added projects to build and test students’ design thinking skills while focusing on solutions for the “greater good.” These included projects to solve real-world problems of importance related to issues such as sustainability, health and wellness, mental health, as well as how to increase voter interest and turnout.
Each year, for three days (and two late nights) the entire Bryant campus resembles a start-up environment as students move out of their comfort zones and into each step of the design thinking process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test.
We’re setting them up for success as they enter the workforce, to be thinking differently than other students at other colleges.
An immersive, boot-camp-style experience, IDEA challenges each first-year class to let go of familiar ways of learning and use the design-thinking process to develop creative solutions to real-world problems. A product innovation method used by many of the world’s most successful companies, design thinking employs a human-centric approach that focuses on how big problems affect real people. IDEA sponsors Amica Insurance, Citizens Bank, CVS Health, and EY, are also design-thinking companies.
Alumni volunteers help make it all possible
Alumni mentors play critical roles in IDEA, serving as a link between students and industry, and bringing their real-world experience back to campus to share. Joining at a vital point in the process, they hear preliminary presentations of the students’ concepts and provide feedback that helps refine the students’ thinking.
Many volunteers then go on to serve as judges in the third day’s trade show, where students formally present their ideas and prototype models. It’s a powerful opportunity for student-alumni interaction that leaves everyone feeling enriched.
“We’re setting them up for success as they enter the workforce, to be thinking differently than other students at other colleges,” says Greg Calderiso ’09 MBA, Senior Assistant Vice President at Amica Mutual Insurance, who has only missed one or two years coming back to volunteer for IDEA. “It makes me really proud that they’re coming from Bryant, the place I learned from as well.”
The Bryant IDEA program mimics real-world experiences.
Jocelyn (Lynch) Murta ’05, ’11 MST is a Tax Partner at sponsor company EY, and came back for her fourth time as an IDEA volunteer. She says she’s been impressed by how the program has improved over the years, and comes back for the energy and enthusiasm. “I always love seeing the passion of the students at IDEA. We only had two days to work together, but everybody gave 100 percent effort to their projects.”
Sylvia Weinstock ’04 CMP, a Senior Learning Specialist at McKinsey & Company, has volunteered at IDEA for the past three years and shared why it's important to come back for the next generation. "Not only is it inspiring but it’s also important to be here. When we were in school, quite a few alumni came back and mentored us, and this is our chance to do the same for the next generation."
“The Bryant IDEA program mimics real-world experiences,” adds Frank Calabrese ’83, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Architect at IDEA sponsor company Citizens Bank. “One of the things I look for in an IT architect is the ability to start with an incomplete set of requirements and ideas and develop a cohesive strategy from them.”
Though this was Calabrese’s first time volunteering as an IDEA mentor and judge, he hopes to return. In addition, he says, “I’m responsible for Colleague Technology Architecture and Strategy at Citizen’s Bank… and I’m looking forward to being able to hire people out of college who can put the pieces together.”