Workshop Kicks Off New Innovation EffortNovember 17, 2014

It’s a given that students in a university business program are taught to value innovation and entrepreneurship.

But a group of Rockhurst University professors are now working to invite students from all disciplines, from science to art to physical therapy, to think about how they can make those concepts an integral part of their education and careers, too.

On Thursday, Rockhurst University hosted an innovation and entrepreneurship workshop, inviting about 60 students to a dinner and panel discussion of innovation experts from Kansas City and beyond.

“I’m glad to see you all here tonight,” said James Baxendale, executive MBA ’97, director of the Whiteboard to Boardroom program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, to the students gathered in the Massman Gallery. “This is really a great time to be an innovator in Kansas City.”

The students heard from Nate Olson, ’11, the creator of the 1 Million Cups entrepreneurship program at the Kauffman Foundation, who moderated the panel discussion. Panelists included Hunter Browning, a young entrepreneur in the Kansas City area and co-founder of X-Lab; Mike Farmer, founder and CEO of Leap2 and developer of products like a self-inflating life jacket; Matthew Marcus, the COO and co-founder of Local Ruckus; and Kyle Rogers, developer of Sporting Innovations, a startup associated with Sporting KC.

The students were also asked to come up with a startup pitch of their own for a product or service named with two words chosen at random.

It’s part of a new effort by several University faculty members to spur interest and expand opportunities to learn about innovation and entrepreneurship beyond business classes.

“I started to become very interested in the idea of creativity as a psychologist,” said Risa Stein, Ph.D., professor of psychology and chair of the division of behavioral and social sciences.

Stein said her reading and research confirmed that creativity is cultivated in children, but is frequently de-emphasized in favor of memorization later in their education.

Stein worked with colleagues like Turner White, assistant executive professor of management in the Helzberg School of Management, and Cheryl McConnell, dean of the Helzberg School, to help plan events encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship among students. Thursday’s workshop, to which students from across the University’s disciplines were invited, was the beginning of that effort, she said. Planning is underway for a full innovation weekend in April, something to immerse students in the concepts and to show them how making creativity and innovation part of their everyday routine could help them in the future.

“That will be a weekend of how, for instance, innovation is applicable to a physical therapist,” she said. “Anybody and everybody should be involved in doing something innovative and creative.”

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