Creativity & Innovation Block 6 Newsletter

The Creative Lab: Crafting a Culture of Creativity at CC by Kris Stanec

Since I started last August as C & I’s Faculty Fellow, much of what I do involves one-on-one conversations with faculty to integrate creative exercises into their specific courses. This “boutique” approach takes a lot of time: listening, asking questions, sharing ideas, and then listening more.  
I wondered, “How might we create a model for highly accessible, sustainable, creativity-based learning experiences across course content?”
Then I met Alexia Preston (’21). She had conducted a literature review that explores empirical evidence on fostering creativity in organizational settings. Alexia is passionate about sharing the power of creative problem solving with others. She believes creativity was a significant connector between courses during her time at CC. Noting her work ethic, I knew we could accomplish a lot if we worked together. She applied for a Student Seed Innovation Grant (SSIG) through C&I that merged her knowledge of Design Thinking (a methodical approach to problem solving that centers humans in all stages of the process) with my search for ways to scale individualized creative exercises. Over the course of last semester, the intersections of our questions led to a productive collaboration.
Question One: How might we craft a culture of creativity at CC?  
We started by empathizing with students, faculty, and administrators by conducting individual interviews. We then synthesized what we had heard, identifying themes across interviewees. Our findings evolved into “how might we…” statements as a way of generating many possible, divergent outcomes. 
A few core learnings emerged from the empathy interviews:  
  • We need to define creativity more clearly across disciplines.
  • Relationships that are founded on trust lead to more creative risk-taking in learning.
  • Faculty in STEM disciplines desire more applied ways to integrate creativity.
  • Creative exercises across all disciplines must be relevant to course content.
  • We need to use subtractive design, instead of adding to our overloaded schedules.
  • Failure and courage are core components of creativity.
  • We need to highlight examples of how creativity already exists on campus.
Question Two: How might we develop a framework for a series of creativity-based workshops that faculty members could implement within any block course?  
Alexia and I devised a “Creative Lab” model. The model includes workshops offered twice a week, in the morning and the afternoon, with a designated creative exercise that meets learning objectives for many different courses.
We crafted a prototype that reflected some of the needs mentioned in the interviews, such as:
  • A resource that adds little additional time to faculty and student workloads, since the workshops fold into the course, either during a morning class session or as an afternoon “lab”.
  • Brief meetings with faculty prior to the workshops to determine the integration of course goals with creative exercises.
  • A focus on CC 100/120 courses to provide students with skills that can be used throughout their time at CC, hopefully leading to a more ingrained culture of creativity and real-world problem solving.
  • Iteration of the prototype throughout the spring to determine best practices for a multitude of disciplines and courses.
I facilitated the Creative Lab model in Block 5 and received valuable feedback. This spring, I hope to explore more collaborative versions of the model, simultaneously leading multiple classes through the same exercise. Alexia has since been hired at the Nature Conservancy in Boulder, running Design Sprints for teams working on conservation issues globally. Fortunately, she remains in close contact, still dedicated to this project.
As I iterate next Block’s version of the Creative Lab model, I wonder if our current “boutique” approach best exemplifies CC: personable, deep learning unique to each course. Certainly, the pandemic has shown us how relationships must be nurtured and that individualized learning takes focus and time.
My endeavor to systematize a series of creativity-based workshops might fail. Admittedly, this outcome would be disappointing. Yet it exemplifies what I believe we need to model for each other: the willingness to try and fail and try again. In that way, the project will still be a success. And maybe our project will gain momentum, increasing the propensity to be creative at CC.
If you are interested in being a part of the Creative Lab prototype, please reach out to me, Kris Stanec,” style=”font-weight: normal;font-weight: normal;color: #7a6646;text-decoration: underline;color: #7a6646;text-decoration: underline”>

A Conversation with Block 6 Innovator in Residence Teresa Cavazos Cohn

Teresa Cavazos Cohn (’96) is an associate professor in the University of New Hampshire’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment and a climate change fellow at the Harvard Divinity School. She is also a co-founder of the “Confluence Lab,” which brings together scholars in the humanities and sciences with community members to engage in environmental issues in rural communities. She is a geographer specializing in hydrosocial relations, emphasizing tribes of the western United States, human dimensions of fire, science communication, and the environment. Her research and outreach projects have been funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and Milkweed Press. Teresa earned her BA from Colorado College, an MSc from Schumacher College, and a PhD from Montana State University.

What are your research interests and what made you want to be an Innovator in Residence at Colorado College?  
I am in transition from the University of Idaho to the University of New Hampshire. I am moving into a job working with the Department of Natural Resources and the environment. My work in Idaho mainly focused on environmental justice. Most of my work was on tribes, tribal water governance, water resources, and cultural geographies, mainly in the U.S. West. Another subject that I’ve gotten increasingly interested in is science communication. There is this missing component between the data that’s being generated and human experience right now. A couple of my research projects right now are around fire science and people’s experiences of fire.
There are many reasons I really am interested in creativity and innovation and the structure of the program. I like the idea of supporting student risk in recognizing that we are outgrowing our institutions and our institutional structures, and we need to work with students to be able to envision what is next. That’s really exciting to me. For me to have a creative space in which to do some of my own work is a big draw, too. If I were to name one skill that I hope students gain in these experiences in the classroom and outside the classroom, it would be creativity.
How are you hoping to engage with CC students specifically through these projects? 
I am working in classrooms that are engaging with science communication. In a microbiology class, we’re going to do some work around storytelling and developing podcasts. I’m really interested in the personal narratives of scientists. What is your own personal story about how you did research and how do you go back and talk about that in a way that has emotion in story structure so that you can communicate about what you do in a more fully human way?
Do you do anything creatively that’s outside of your work scope, just for fun?
I’m a weaver. I have a 14-foot loom that runs on a compressor in the garage. The book that I’m writing is called A Tapestry Of Fire and it’s really based on craft and weaving. One of my life mottos is something Joan Stone, my poetry professor when I was a Colorado College student, said, “At the end of your life, I think what you have left are your relationships and the things you made with your hands.” Those two fundamental forces underlie my life. I desperately need a place where I can work things out in a way that doesn’t rely on words. I need my body to be working with color and shape in order for ideas to keep moving, so that creative space is really essential for me.
As a Colorado College alumna and an Innovator in Residence now, what advice would you give Colorado College students?  
Trust your deep questions and don’t be deterred by your deep agitations. Engaging with those disturbances is the way forward because those agitations will be what you end up creating in the future that the world needs. I wish I would have known that as a student.

C&I Recommends by Myra L. Jackson, Mindfulness Practitioner in Residence

Myra L. Jackson
Our autonomic nervous system is all about safety. On a rapidly changing planet, our bodies are sensing the perilous imbalances in our world by way of neuroception, the process that the brain undergoes to immediately recognize danger and keep us safe. Learning to consciously regulate our nervous system is invaluable in helping us navigate during times of rapid change and disruption.
Students who took the Innate Mindfulness course with me during half-block this year were introduced to the polyvagal theory. The polyvagal theory is sometimes described as “the science of connection”. The theory provides an understanding of how the vagus nerve, which connects the brain, to the heart, and to the viscera (the organs of the belly), relates to our human ability to connect and communicate with each other. The study of polyvagal theory can enhance a person’s mindfulness practice at any level.
If you are intrigued to learn more, Dr. Deb Dana is a clinician and consultant specializing in complex trauma and is the coordinator of the Kinsey Institute Traumatic Stress Research Consortium. Dr. Dana’s approach to polyvagal theory is straightforward and tailored for immediate integration into one’s daily life. An explanation of polyvagal theory by Dr. Dana can be found here.
If you’d like a comprehensive taste of polyvagal theory, I recommend listening to Tami Simon of Sounds True Foundation engage Deb Dana in an informative interview on Befriending Your Nervous System. Or purchase Dr. Dana’s audiobook or print publication, The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy, Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation.
Mindfulness as a practice is naturally self-regulating. Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to explore mindfulness further.
Myra L. Jackson
Creativity & Innovation, Mindfulness Practitioner in Residence
Electrical Engineer, Organizational Development Professional, and Founding member of the Gaiafield Project, Myra Jackson holds the title of Diplomat of the Biosphere awarded by Stockholm Resilience Centre, (SRC). Her primary work is focused on climate change, the Planetary Commons, Culture of Peace initiatives, and public policy affecting the wellness of people and the planet. Linking local and global policymaking, she is Senior Advisor, Whole Earth Civics, Geoversiv Foundation. In her role as UN Representative in New York and Geneva, Myra serves as the focal point on climate change for the Commons Cluster of NGOs and expert on the UN Harmony with Nature Knowledge Network.  She facilitated Oprah Winfrey’s Belief series initiative as an official program of the United Nations hosted by the President of the 70th General Assembly in October 2015.

Creativity & Innovation Faculty & Staff Funding Opportunities

Creativity & Innovation offers two types of funding for faculty and staff:
Tenure-track faculty, lecturers, adjunct instructors, year-long visitors, and staff members are eligible to apply.
Our funding goals include:
  • Developing partnerships across divisions and disciplines that test and implement transformative practices in teaching, scholarship, outreach, and programming.
  • Integrating interdisciplinary thinking into classes and campus culture.
  • Moving theory into practice to engage faculty, staff, and/or students in applied problem solving.
  • Exploring projects and activities that stimulate creativity and require risk-taking.
  • Developing and implementing anti-racist pedagogy and practices.
Creative Exploration Grants support smaller projects that allow faculty and staff members to explore a topic, process, or collaboration.
  • Individuals or teams may apply for up to $2,000 to support a project’s direct costs.
  • Grants are intended to support exploratory projects that do not presently have funding sources.
  • Projects that stimulate creativity and model productive risk-taking are encouraged.
Changemaker Collaboration Grants support teams of up to six to meet, dream, and plan for larger-scale projects that have the potential for transformative effects for faculty, staff, and students at Colorado College. Teams may comprise all faculty, all staff, or a mix of both.
  • Applicant teams must comprise at least two faculty and/or staff members representing different departments/programs. Teams of three or more members may include more than one representative from a single department or program.
  • Projects must engage students, faculty, and/or staff in applied problem solving either within or outside of a class context.
Information and application forms for these funding opportunities can be found here.
The next application deadline is 5:00 pm on March 28, 2022.

Creativity & Innovation Student Seed Innovation Grants

In January 2021, Creativity & Innovation officially launched the Student Seed Innovation Grant program. Student Seed Innovation Grants (SSIG) are donor-funded grants of $3,000 – $8,000, designed to empower students to investigate questions and solve real-world problems. The SSIG program seeks to be an idea accelerator by providing resources for students to be creative problem solvers, embrace ambiguity, and iterate a project/idea forward.
If you are interested in applying for a Student Seed Innovation Grant, visit the SSIG page here for more information or schedule a meeting with Creativity & Innovation’s Kate Carroll:
The next application deadline is midnight on April 20, 2022.
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