No. 1: ASU receives recognition for innovation

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Laura Latzko    College Times

Over the years, ASU has developed a strong reputation for its innovative approaches. Now, ASU has been recognized on a national level by the U.S. News and World Report for that creative approach to education.

This is the fifth consecutive year that ASU has been named No. 1 in innovation, ahead of other top schools including Georgia State University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

The ranking was developed through peer nominations from college presidents, admission deans and provosts, and is based on factors like improvements to facilities, overall campus life, curriculum and technology.

Innovation is a campuswide idea, implemented in different ways. It touches different aspects of ASU, including teaching and research methodologies.

Different programs, research projects and teams have helped ASU to become recognized as one of the most innovative schools in the country. This includes the all-female Desert WAVE robotics team, a canine cancer vaccine trial and the BioSpine adaptive learning biology degree.

ASU has also developed partnerships with Uber to provide opportunities for drivers to get a college education and the Maryvale community to implement a revitalization project called the One Square Mile Initiative.

Innovation is part of the business model of ASU, but it also touches students and faculty in more tangible ways. Professors in different schools are bringing innovation to their classrooms through their methodology and hands-on projects.

Brent Sebold, the executive director of entrepreneurship and innovation for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, teaches the importance of entrepreneurship and value creation to business and engineering majors.

He feels innovation is tied to whether something has a greater use or purpose—on a local, national or global level.

“Whether you are building a robot, developing a new skill for the Alexa or developing a nonprofit, you have to have a novel value proposition that people are willing to pay for,” Sebold says.

He tries to communicate to his students that when creating anything, it is important to be able to understand and anticipate the needs of audiences.

“The sales process goes away when you get it right, when you truly are empathetic to the end user. Empathy in the design process will enable you to create something like a new American university that hundreds of thousands of people value,” Sebold says.

ASU students have applied these lessons about value creation through projects such as an entertainment company that makes ride-share trips less awkward as well as through a campus parking reservation service.

Students are encouraged to not wait until they graduate but instead release their products or services into the market right now.

“We are trying to blur the line between society, the marketplace and the classroom every day. I think that’s pretty much across the board at any forward-thinking university,” Sebold says.

Collaboration among different schools and with community partners has also helped ASU to be forward thinking. It is through these projects that ASU students and faculty have been able to make change not just on campus but in a larger context.

Students have had a chance to work with people in other disciplines and with community partners as part of smart city project involving Belmont Properties, the Gammage and Burnham law firm, and ASU.

As part of a related independent study/externship, four students from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law are helping to develop a framework for governing a smart city.

“These students are being exposed to real estate law, development and design with the idea of actually helping to shape this 22,000-acre property in Arizona,” says Diana Bowman, associate dean of international engagement for the law school and co-director of the Center for Smart Cities and Regions.

Bowman says being part of collaborative efforts will allow students to be able to communicate with people in a range of disciplines.

“The sooner you get exposed to the different languages of the different disciplines, the sooner that you can find ways to work together and problem-solve because no longer are you feeling excluded from those discussions,” Bowman says. CT

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