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Monday, October 21, 2019

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College of Technology unveils innovation program


The first session of the "Innovation Principles class drew a diverse class of students interested in expanding their creative and business acumen. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The first session of the “Innovation Principles class drew a diverse class of students interested in expanding their creative and business acumen. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The College of Technology this fall updated its degree programs to emphasize innovation, and introduced a new minor designed to be accessible to all UH students.

CoT is changing the name of the organizational leadership and management major and minor to technology leadership and innovation management, or TLIM, and adding new courses that reflect their program of innovation. 

“We see (innovation) as a skill set that helps you in your everyday life, as well as the company that you’re going into,” said David Crawley, a professor of practice who has taught on innovation at UH for four years. “This is really important right now as technology becomes a driving force in organizations, and it will continue to be important.” 

The change was approved this last spring by the University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, alongside a completely new applied innovation minor. 

Crawley sees the new program as a marriage between a business degree and a technology degree, equipping people with resources and knowledge to contribute unique ideas to the economy.

“Innovation is something that’s meaningfully unique,” Crawley said. “It’s got to mean something to somebody, whether that means they spend time or money on it, it’s got to have value.”

Brian Mehring, the TLIM program coordinator and associate professor at UH, is excited for the opportunity the degree presents, the interest shown by the industry, and the engagement with students. 

“The responses from innovation stakeholders have been overwhelmingly positive,” Mehring said. 

Stakeholders including current and new students, employers, non-profits and governmental communities, Mehring said.

One of the centrepieces of the program is the TLIM 3330 class “Innovation Principles,” which covers the fundamentals of the program and also provides students with a special certification. 

“Students who successfully complete the required Innovation Principles course will earn an industry recognized Blue Belt Certification from the Innovation Engineering Institute,” Mehring said. 

Crawley said the certification is useful not just through the class.

“The student who gets that certification, they not only get experience and tools, but they get access to a portal with functionality and support for two years,” Crawley said. “They can use the portal in their courses, in research, and beyond.” 

The portal also allows students to crowdsource, asking trained professionals across the world questions pertaining to their projects. 

The “Innovations Principles” course covers coming up with an innovation purpose, stimulating creativity, outlining the idea for others, estimating profits and costs on the fly, and best practices for enacting the idea. 

Crawley hopes that the program will give students the edge they need in the market ahead. 

“Every year there’s hundreds of thousands of young people looking for a job, and many of them have a three point something GPA,” Crawley said. “We believe the (program) will make you unique and give you that competitive advantage.”

There are already students with declared TLIM majors, as well as students transferring from the old OLS program, Mehring said. 

The TLIM major is a Bachelor of Science degree and has six new required courses from the old major and requires the “Innovation Principle”s class, while the TLIM minor has the option to complete that course. 

The applied innovation minor has only four required classes, including the TLIM 3330 course. 

“(The minor) is designed to be accessible to any UH student,” Mehring said. “Dean Ambler promoted this initiative in order to foster increased collaboration with other UH colleges and programs.”

Mehring suspects that the demand for the program from students and for TLIM graduates in the workforce will rise.

“We expect this minor to continue to become more popular for students outside the College of Technology and to remain very popular with other college majors,” Mehring said. “Students tend to be attracted to the blend of leadership, technology and innovation skills which dynamic organizations are seeking.”

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