Ideas Congress

Ideas Congress - or ICON for short - launches in winter 2015.
Ideas Congress – or ICON for short – launches in winter 2015.

Late last year I sat down to have a beer with my friend and colleague Dr. Shoshanah Jacobs from the Department of Integrative Biology. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss ideas about education. During part of the conversation, we chatted about hackathons, the educational experience, and likely lamented the fact that most students never speak to anyone outside of their discipline specific silos.

It was during this conversation that a spark of an idea came into being. And the more we chatted about the idea, the more excited and animated we became.

In the coming weeks we met several times, formulating a game plan, and officially submitting an application to the University of Guelph’s Learning Enhancement Fund describing what we were calling the Undergraduate Trans-disciplinary Innovation Program (or U-TIP for short). Our application was successful, so for the past 5 months we’ve been working with several students – Jessica Nelson, Brianna Driscoll, and Lee-Jay Cluskey-Belanger – to build U-TIP.

While we are still working on the program, we’re pretty excited to introduce to you Ideas Congress – or ICON for short. ICON is the first milestone of the U-TIP. But what is ICON? ICON is a trans-disciplinary undergraduate experience. The goal of ICON is to create a think-tank comprised of highly motivated senior undergraduate students from all disciplines across campus, plus their faculty advisors, and a community partner, to develop solutions to a real-world challenge. Over the summer we have identified our community partner (which we’ll be announcing soon), and we’ve been working with every unit on campus to formalize the ICON program.

What can I tell you so far? Students who would normally enrol in senior undergraduate projects or theses within each of their respective disciplines are invited to take part. Interested students will meet later this semester to meet the community partner, and learn about the challenges that will be addressed. The inaugural ICON class will begin in winter 2015. Students will form small multi-disciplinary teams, and will work throughout the semester to develop their own unique solution to the community partner challenge. They will need to do this while satisfying the regular requirements of their respective senior undergraduate project or thesis course, and while also learning valuable knowledge translation and transfer skills.

I’m pretty excited about U-TIP and ICON, and I can’t wait to see what the students come up with. For more information, follow ICON on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or check out our shiny new website. And feel free to send us an email if you’re curious about how you might get involved in this truly unique trans-disciplinary experience.

For more information regarding ICON, join us on October 16 in room 127 of UofGBiz (the fVMI building) from 5:30-6:30pm.

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