Undergraduate Course Teaches the Freedom to Innovate
“I never underestimate the talent and genius of undergraduates here at Georgetown,” said Robert Bies, professor of management. Through his Imagination and Creativity course, Bies helps undergraduates develop that talent and apply it in producing innovative solutions in hands-on projects.
Over the course of a semester, students brainstorm solutions to problems posed by the class’s partners, develop a working proposal, modify the proposal through feedback, and finally create a step-by-step plan that is ready for implementation. This fall students worked with Campus Ministry to improve outreach for ESCAPE, an overnight retreat for first-year and transfer students, and with AARP to help market an app designed to maintain cognitive ability among the elderly.
According to Bies, innovation like the the kind taught in the class is important from a leadership perspective. “The course is all about helping people develop their imagination and creativity skills,” he said. “For me, one of the hallmarks of good leadership is creativity and innovation.”
Carter Owen (B’18) said that the class’s emphasis on constant innovation helped him realize the value in pushing boundaries. “[The course] has challenged me more than any class I’ve taken in college thus far and has opened my eyes to how much of life’s fun lies just beyond our fears,” he said.
Bridget Bingham (B’19) credited Bies for the class’s success. “I think it’s a really great class because it is so different, and [Bies] has a really unique teaching style. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks,” she said.
Still, Bies believes that his students’ creativity is what makes the class work, adding that students often develop ideas for the course that are unconventional. This semester, for instance, students suggested holding an ESCAPE retreat before pre-orientation, in addition to the normal retreat held afterward.
Having the chance to work ESCAPE was especially meaningful for Owen. “As someone who went on the ESCAPE retreat, I loved being able to contribute to a staple of Georgetown I view fondly,” he said “It was really cool to be incentivized to be as innovative and wild as possible in our brainstorming and idea generation processes.”
Bingham emphasized brainstorming as a major area of improvement due to her time in the class, as well as writing, group work, and other soft skills. “Since the class is about imagination and creativity, a lot of it is just forcing ourselves to think more outside the box,” she said.
Looking forward, the course will partner with AARP again next semester, with the other partner not yet announced. “I try to find projects that are real, but also have a social justice angle,” Bies said. The course has worked with organizations like Operation Smile in the past.
Bies maintained that the course’s students were the driving force behind the innovative proposals they presented to AARP and ESCAPE. But for Owen, the highlight of the course remains the opportunity to work with Bies. “He empowers us to find our passions and live creatively for others.”