First Year Innovation Experience Pushes Students Out of Their Comfort Zone

The First Year Innovation Experience is an intensive experiential learning course for new freshmen that pushes them out of their comfort zone and enhances their ability to recognize and seize opportunities. Part of the redesigned undergraduate business core, the School’s new “cornerstone” course introduces students to design thinking and challenges them to apply it creatively to solve real-world problems.

The class has several learning objectives that are consistent with the themes in the School’s strategic plan. Launched in Fall 2017, all 370 freshmen students developed entrepreneurial thinking, enhanced influence skills, and a broader understanding of sustainability principles. In addition, students learned that they have the power to make changes in their communities.

The centerpiece of the course is an “Innovation Challenge” involving an immersive experience that engages students with the Pittsburgh community, professors and alumni. Client organizations included the City of Pittsburgh and Sustainable Pittsburgh. Students worked with these clients and were asked to develop a plan to improve the Uptown neighborhood adjacent to campus.

During the fall semester, over 60 teams were formed to attack the challenge, with each student developing an idea and presenting it in an elevator pitch format. Working with an assigned mentor, each team selected the best idea in the group and then spent the semester brainstorming, observing, researching, pitching and creating a detailed plan to address the challenge.

Judges from the City of Pittsburgh planning department and Sustainable Pittsburgh attended finalist presentations and evaluated their plans. The judges were very impressed with the ideas put forth and the amount of information provided. Indeed, representatives from both organizations expressed an interest in working with the School of Business and Duquesne to pursue implementation of finalists’ ideas.

The key course leader was Leslie Mansfield, one of our new Executive-in-Residence members. Leslie has almost 40 years of experience in project management and innovation leadership roles at Bombardier and Westinghouse. Leslie was supported by Christine Hughes, Training Manager for the Small Business Development Center and Bill Spangler, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs.

“These were sophisticated presentations, with ideas to match. It’s amazing what these freshmen have accomplished—they should be very proud of their work and we should be very proud of them.”

– Dr. Dean McFarlin

The five finalist teams earned scholarship prizes for their performances.

1st Place Team: You Have Been Skooled

Plan: Create a Duquesne-supported tutoring group for schools and learning centers.
Students: Colleen Higgins, Gabrielle Lapointe, Chris Lewis,Kaylee Mateer, Nick McKinney, Annie Michalski
Mentor: Bobby Luke

2nd Place Team: Emergency Poles

Plan: Place safety poles at strategically identified locationsto improve perceptions of security.
Students: Catherine Lis, Lan Nhi Le, Gianna Mancino, Tara McKissick,Hayden Posencheg, Daniel Reinhold
Mentor: Teresa Barber

3rd Place Team: Uptown Initiative to Improve Aesthetics

Plan: Develop a student volunteer organization dedicated to neighborhood improvement.
Students: Ashley Dutillo, Jacob Hebda, Tyler Hitt, Daniel Hughes,Brian Girman, Vincent Gullo, Jillian Helmick, Janet Tracy, Vit Vincent
Mentor: Tom Burg

4th Place Team: Uptown Greenwalls

Plan: Create vertical gardens on selected buildings to improve visual appeal as well as air and water quality
Students: Molly Miller, Missy Moore, Cooper Myers, Joel Provost,Greg Scolieri, Brayden Tarolli, Hannah Zimmerman
Mentor: Joseph Winkler

5th Place Team: Cafe Galley

Plan: Build a food court incorporating up and coming local chefs with affordable prices.
Students: Patrick McDonell, Lindsey Mockbee, Jinal Patel, Olivia Quirici,Marquest Rainey, Zack Rosa, Hannah Reed
Mentor: Leslie Mansfield