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Championing Innovation

It is central to St. Norbert College’s mission that we embrace and foster ways of thinking and doing that are forward-looking, inventive and original. We can best achieve this in an environment that encourages risk-taking, rewards experimentation and promotes learning through trial and error.

Progress To Date
In 2013, President Tom Kunkel formed an innovation task force now known as the Big Ideas Group. This group’s charge is to dedicate itself to thinking about innovative and strategic opportunities that move the institution forward.

The group’s initial assignment was to solicit forward-thinking ideas and present at least two or three of them for possible integration into the college’s overall strategic planning process.

The group issued a campus-wide call for proposals, with a special competition to generate ideas from students.

One core concept emerged from the call: diversification. As shared in the 2014 report, an overwhelming number of suggestions pertained to the diversification of students served, programs offered, partnerships developed and/or opportunities provided.

From among the many, five ideas were chosen:

  • Develop online learning at SNC
  • Create more college partnerships 
  • Establish a center for entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Plan a lifelong learning community to be called SNC Village 
  • Pursue European expansion of the SNC experience

In group’s second year, task forces were assigned to examine each of these. Four were further developed (the online learning initiative was placed on hold) and three of those were operationalized in some manner. Actions included:

  • The college entered into new partnerships, including CatholicLink, a partnership among St. Norbert, GRACE schools and Notre Dame Academy. A “3+3” program was also created, in partnership with Marquette University Law School, and work commenced on agreements with two-year colleges and a 3:2 engineering program.
  • Building toward a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Mulva Library and the Schneider School of Business & Economics are combining efforts to bring a variety of initiatives to campus. These include: programming and competitions around student entrepreneurship, a partnership with the county for startups, and the ongoing work supporting innovation efforts on campus through this group. 
  • SNC Village is in the research/assessment phase; surveys have been conducted with faculty, staff and alumni.
  • We’ve started to expand the SNC European experience with the announcement that the Rev. Andrew Ciferni, O.Praem., head of the Center for Norbertine Studies, will be teaching a J-term course at four abbeys in Europe. 

The second year of group’s existence also saw presentations and discussions around innovative cultures; the creation of an Innovate SNC Facebook page; and design of an Innovation Toolkit with ideas to stimulate outside-the-box thinking.

The next year brought the establishment of “IDEAS,” a community discussion series that presented seven events in the 2015-16 academic year, followed by a half-dozen more in 2016-17, on topics ranging from cutting-edge digital tools to wellness.