Innovation councils designed to help improve Wilkes culture

Alyssa Stencavage, Life Editor

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Many students have probably seen or heard about the Formation of the Innovation Council through the Today@Wilkes announcements that are delivered via email every day and also on the news archives on the university website.
Associate Vice President of Marketing Communications Jack Chielli said the ultimate goal of the council is to first, “delve into specific topics that may be of interest to students and the university at large in a creative way,” and secondly to “help nurture the culture of innovation of the university at large.”
The topic for the first of these councils, which was an idea originated by the president’s cabinet and is currently forming, is titled: How can technology enhance the residential student experience? This will both examine technology in residential experience and come up with innovative and interesting ideas to improve that experience, and then put together a presentation to give to the campus community, the president’s cabinet and possibly the board of trustees.
The objective of the first idea is to deploy technology more effectively to enhance the educational experience at Wilkes.
“I would hope that the ideas the campus community is excited about would end up before the board,” Chielli said.
Each council can have a separate idea to work with.
“Each each council will have as its own goals to come up with ideas both implementable and affordable, and that help improve some sort of operation at the university,” Chielli said.
President Patrick Leahy said this is a formal way of generating ideas around vexing issues, taking one issue at a time and forming a team and throwing ideas at them to see what they can come up with.
The councils will not be responsible for implementing ideas, only generating them. From there, senior administration will evaluate each of them to see which ones are not only good, but also affordable and so on.
Leahy, who came up with the idea, said it came from businesses that have employed these ideas based on vexing problems.
“I think our world is very complex, and particularly higher education has faced its fair share of problems,” Leahy said. “I have the general belief that of the best organizations – be it corporations, government, business or higher education, the most successful are those that place a premium on innovation, such as creativity, entrepreneurship, thinking outside the box. I want to try to build a culture of innovation. I like to be open to new ideas and think outside the box.”
The formation of these innovation councils will accomplish two things. The first is that they will create new, fresh, innovative thinking that could be presented to senior decision makers. It’s all about the fresh thinking around certain ideas that can influence our thinking. Second, through these teams, an innovative culture will be built here.
But Leahy said he really wants students engaged in the process.
“We can really have fun with this and come up with ideas that can help us benefit the student culture here at Wilkes,” Leahy said. “We face issues and we need to address these issues by coming up with ideas that are different from what we are used to.”
Leahy stressed that we need new thinking around the problems we face and that he is using it as a tool to create an innovative culture.
How the formation of these councils will benefit the university really all depends on the ideas that are generated.
“I would hope that the innovation councils bring attention to ideas the campus community can enact that will improve the student experience at large,” Chielli said.
Considering the first council is still in the making, Chielli said they will learn more about interest after they go through the first one and go through the process once.
“This could be fun, I’m hoping to have some fun with it,” Chielli said. “We will bring a group of people together who have interest in a particular subject area, dive down deep into the idea and explore it to come up with some actionable items to propose to campus. I expect them to do research, come together and bring ideas, and then disband and form another council.
However, these councils will only have a couple of months at most to work together to get the job done.
“The quickness of it will help people generate ideas more quickly,” Chielli said. “I don’t know how many meetings each council will need, but that’s something we’ll sort of experiment with as we go along.”
If you are interested in joining a council, email Jack Chielli with a very brief explanation of why you are interested in serving on the council. The actual council will be picked by the cabinet, and this will inform everyone of expressed interest whether they are put on the council or not.
Between eight and 12 students can be on a council, and among those there should be appropriate representation from the various different groups on campus.
The topic for the formation of the first council is only the first. There are more to come. Some of these include how we can grow enrollments from outside of Pennsylvania, how we can increase our alumni participation rate in terms of giving or donating to the university and what ways Wilkes University can continue the redevelopment of downtown Wilkes-Barre.
Leahy said we talk about the issues, but we need to get people out there and actually working with them. He even used the term “hungry for ideas.”

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