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Applied Creativity as an 'app' for your degree and an academic Institute that can house it.

21st century imaginative and creative skills to impact today's innovative and global workforce regardless of degree focus.

Photo of Brian LaDuca
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In a recent Adobe for Education article, author Tacy Towbridge outlines recent findings from the compensation data provider PayScale published in its 2016 Workforce-Skills Preparedness Report. “The report details the responses of almost 64,000 hiring managers across a wide range of industries who were asked about the ‘skills gap’—the disconnect between the skills students have when they graduate from college and the skills companies need.” Towbridge highlighted three specific points:

  • 60% of managers said new graduates do not have the critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary for the job.
  • 46% said new graduates lack the necessary communication skills.
  • 36% reported new graduates have inadequate interpersonal and teamwork skills

Other recent findings were also outlined in the same Adobe article:

  • The World Economic Forum reports that students with social and emotional learning (SEL) skills like critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity, communication, and collaboration are better equipped to succeed in the evolving digital economy.
  • Bloomberg analyzed the skills gap among MBAs and found that the skills managers want most but have the most trouble finding include strategic thinking, leadership skills, communication skills, creative problem-solving, and working collaboratively.
  • Fast Company describes 2016 as the year of the hybrid job, in which employers want multifaceted employees who have both hard skills like database technology and soft skills like communication and collaboration.

Towbridge asks educational institutions how they intend to help students close the skills gap? She states, “it’s clear to us that they need to go beyond teaching traditional skills and make fostering creativity and developing digital skills a priority in the classroom. Many of the skills current grads lack are associated with creativity, from critical thinking to communication to collaboration.”

In a recent AACU journal article on Creativity and Innovation by Fernando Lozano and Amanda Sabicer stated, “... efforts to enhance creativity and innovation are changing the educational landscape of the United States. These efforts can take many names and forms—clinics, design thinking, entrepreneurial accelerators. But [Lozano and Sabicer] argue here that campus interventions alone are not sufficient...Enhanced creativity should be fostered and guided toward answering “real-life” problems; it should affect the very communities where our schools exist, even as its development prepares students for life after graduation… The main idea is that creativity is not fostered in isolation; rather, creativity is best enhanced when it is part of a collective and diverse ecosystem.”

University ecosystems and their values will need to focus on holistic learning, sign of the times education, service and vocation. Campuses eager to pivot can only benefit from a focused look at the creative impact of new learning so that innovative, entrepreneurial, social, service and sustainable disciplines can be benchmarks in continuing to answer those evolving real-life problems.

In understanding the application of creativity as a value in today's job market, Universities must look to educate not only on concepts related to creativity, but most importantly, to give students the chance to practice exercising creativity while receiving valuable feedback.

Our model of Applied Creativity stems from transdisciplinary learning where we can create a unity of intellectual frameworks beyond the disciplinary perspectives. Meaning, the focus on Applied Creativity and the process in which it is employed spans all disciplines. It spans all students and educators. Transdisciplinary teaching and learning engages multiple voices, expertises and actions with the focus on humanity-centered design thinking. It’s a ‘change the world’ mindset that empowers all disciplines of study to think about, with a greater mission, a larger collaborative purpose with mankind squarely in the center of that purpose.

Applied Creativity is not simply a mindset, but a mindset with focus on Humanity-Centered Design. Unlike other national models for creative confidence where Human-Centered Design exists to propel design thinking forward for the individual person, Humanity-Centered is built to provide creative design for mankind; that is, humans as a group.

Applied Creativity is about being able to harness imagination and vision to effectively implement unexpected, innovative ideas that can change the world.

Over the years we will learn how to apply that insatiable curiosity and creative energy by wedding it to the disciplines, the passions and vocations of students, faculty, and staff across the ALL University campuses. We won’t just think outside the box – We will establish that there IS NO BOX and inspire the creative confidence to build something people haven’t seen or thought of before.


To empower a forward-thinking 21st century student with the ability to confidently develop the imaginative and creative skills necessary to excel and impact today’s innovative and global workforce regardless of degree focus.


The undergraduate certificate in Applied Creativity for Transformation will introduce students to the creative competencies that today’s job market demands, while applying those same skills to the students’ diverse disciplines of study with special focus on developing a personal mission, or purpose-based learning design, that is additive to their academic pursuits. Through the introduction of creative theory, critical perspective and innovative immersions within collaborative problem-solving, the student’s perception of what is and what can be in their field of study and the world they live in will broaden in creative, critical and innovative ways.

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

Students learning the rote needs of respective disciplines will earn a certificate in applied creativity providing the academic accreditation to a creative mindset while the ever changing workforce gain alumni who may still have the valued degrees but can look to hire unique individuals with the creative confidence and innovative impact that can diversify their designed workforce and parents see university as a place to create dynamic, value added, mindset education fueling their child's passion

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Three large scale questions when presenting a dramatic and dynamic culture shift across the higher education landscape: Where can this live on other campuses? Specifically campuses not set up to provide 'neutral' facility for transdiscplinary creative and innovative collaborative needs. How can future employers tap into educators and student across the nation as Applied Creative learning becomes engendered? How to navigate specific territorial threats that are sure to arise across campuses?

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

This design for a certificate in Applied Creativity has been piloting since the the Fall of 2015, currently awaiting final Academic Senate approval within University of Dayton's Academic Senate. Currently, there are 27 students in two pilot Cohorts. No students have formally graduated with this certificate attached to their diploma. First graduating class will be in 2018. Our Collaboration Accelerator (see Inspiration below) has had professional impact over the past 2 years.

Tell us about your work experience:

The IACT at ArtStreet was developed over several years of cross-campus collaboration that led to the creation of the IACT Collective of Educators – a body of faculty, staff, alumni and regional creatives whose expertise and vocations are brought together to develop the annual foundational curriculum and creative design for Institute. Learn more at


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jawad Ali

Hi Brian,

I completely agree that the modern workplace demands multidisciplinary collaboration and creative problem solving skills. In our work on the MedTech Innovation Course , there wasn't a specific facility that existed for the group and so we would meet at multiple places (engineering building, hospital, coffee shops...) but perhaps the design school would be a good spot as people from other schools (engineering, business, medicine...) should feel comfortable meeting their for creative endeavors.

Awesome concept and congratulations on the progress you've already made on it. I would love your feedback as well on our model and am very interested in the process you've gone through for applying for a certificate.

Photo of Brian LaDuca

Jawad, thank you for kind words and inquiry.... For us, space making and the visual impact and creative neutrality has provided a never ending positive influence to any and all student or educator in our space who tri-teach or seek creative confidence. I did not mention this but our Institute is also a live/learn so the students residing in the Institute (58 in all) truly have a diverse immersive creative and innovative experience.
Your Course mirrors our University of Dayton’s Collaboration Accelerator which we talked about in the Research phase wherein students and companies can really dig into collaborative creative, innovative entrepreneurial minded work. The big thing we have found is the depth in which we need to engage the students and empower their curiosity. Even our summer initiative which has huge assessment and impact was fleeting and the students were asking for more consistent learning that could directly influence their own disciplines hence our creation of the certificate and the institute.
What can I answer about the certificate? It has been a labor of love, specifically because we are not in a formal academic area and for us to begin to reshape and rethink curriculum has been a tricky hill to navigate but the University has really seen the impact. I could easily share with you the proposal if you wanted to see how it could impact your work?

Photo of Jawad Ali

Brian, the immersive environment is something I hadn't heard about an incubator kind of environment. For some reason ' Silicon Valley' show comes to mind! It would be great if you could send the proposal my way so I could see what it entails.

Photo of Brian LaDuca

Jawad, my email is shoot me an email and I would be happy to share...

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