Case Western Reserve University will be piloting a new initiative known as “Think Big” this semester, an ambitious project that hopes to integrate the university community in directing its future. The brainchild of Provost Ben Vinson III, it will involve three distinct parts: Talk, Test and Act.
Talk, which will start in January, features conversations on topics relevant to the university’s future and will be done in facilitated “thinking groups,” with each group discussion revolving around books, articles and other media. Students, staff and faculty are all allowed to volunteer to be facilitators, and the university also hopes to feature guest speakers. Although the focus of the dialogues will primarily be on the future of higher education, they will also touch on other relevant subjects such as work and society.
While it will be a large effort, the university received positive feedback when surveying students in the fall. Out of around 2,200 responses, more than 650 of them responded that they were willing to contribute.
“It has become increasingly clear that creating a new future for Case Western Reserve demands a different approach,” said Vinson in a video explaining the program.
The Test stage will be carried out primarily through “seed sprints,” school sponsored projects which can range anywhere from academic research to more operational endeavors such as improving food service.
“We know some of you may have ideas you are eager to pursue or even projects primed to launch,” Vinson said, “so next semester we will be funding a series of ‘seed sprints’ to test promising concepts”.
So far, the budget will be capped at $10,000 for the co-curricular and administrative projects and $25,000 for academic ones.
Collaboration during these projects is not only encouraged but mandated. Each must involve at least two groups out of faculty, students and staff. Forms for those interested must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 18, with finalists notified Tuesday, Jan. 22. The finalists will then go through a second round of selection and the winners will be announced Tuesday, Feb. 5.
Throughout its entirety, Think Big will be overseen by a group of community members known as “Thinkers.” The role of the Thinkers will be to compile information during the Talk and Test stages in order to inform the provost about emerging ideas as well as act as a liaison to the community. Reviewers will give applicants a rating from one to five and out of the 25 highest-ranked applicants, Vinson will appoint eight to ten to be Thinkers.
At the beginning of May, the Seed Projects will come to a conclusion, marking the beginning of the Act stage. The Thinkers will narrow down the most successful Seed Sprints, and the winners from those will be known as the “Big Ideas and Directions.” The school then hopes to use these as a launching point to something greater.