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February 21, 2020

ElevatED: Episode 4

The ElevatED podcast is a space for conversations around elevating teaching practices and applied learning for post-traditional students. This is a summary of the latest episode.

This episode explores benefits and challenges of student collaboration projects with Jim Ducay, who manages project-based innovation courses for the University of Denver. Jim is a proven technology business leader who has applied his executive management skills in marketing, engineering, finance, and operations while running start-ups turned to high-growth companies for more than 25 years. Jim launched these projects for DU with three goals in mind: 

First, Jim took an interdisciplinary arppoach by bringing students from different departments together to work on these projects. Often student collaboration projects consist of students from the same or similar departments (think: math and engineering), but that doesn’t mimic real-world innovation and start-up environments. In the professional world, there are people from IT, engineering, product development, creative, marketing, business, etc. all in the same room. These projects sought to prepare students for simliar experiences.  

The second part of Jim’s vision was to work with real companies on real problems. Again, simulating a real-world experience is best when the deliverables involve companies and people who are highly invested in the project.  

Finally, Jim wanted to have industry impact. He wanted a project that went beyond a simple business case where you work on it, complete it, pat each other on the back, and call it a day. He really wanted each project to have an impact on the industry in a way that students could point to their involvement in something that made a difference.  

Jim has been running the cross-departmental collaboration projects for more than a year and has had great success! Upon reflecting on these projects, Jim offers the following tips for faculty or students wanting to engage in projects of this type: 

Get Involved
Find something that is meaningful for you and fully invest yourself in it. The satisfaction from that effort will be very rewarding.  

Be Persistent
Ask questions and push your comfort zones. These projects don’t have rubrics and structure to follow, but stick with it even when it is confusing or uncomfortable.  

Seek Diversity of Thought
A key part of innovation is diversity of thought and diversity of thought comes from people with different experiences, backgrounds, disciplines, etc. Because if you put five of the same people in a room, you’re going to come up with nothing more than what one person can contribute. But you put five different people in a room, you’re going to change the world. 

Listen to the full episode.

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