Innovation Academy: UNM Students Gain Skills to Succeed

Employers need graduates with strong skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving. They also demand “hard” technical skills for particular jobs.

Graph

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit report “Closing the skills gap: companies and colleges collaborating for change” (2014)

“Hard” subject-matter knowledge or technical skills are a given for college graduates. But students also need “soft” skills such as critical thinking and collaboration to succeed at work, and to tackle the great challenges of our time. Faculty need to help college graduates master these vital skills.

Innovation Academy Courses Include:

  • Interdisciplinary content and context
  • Real world, problem-based and community engaged opportunities in partnership with businesses, community and government leaders
  • Pre - and post-testing to assess whether the course improved students’ creativity, critical thinking and problem solving skills

Innovation Academy courses develop soft skills alongside subject-based knowledge and technical skills. Students learn through experience, in interdisciplinary contexts, working on real problems and trying out new ideas. Sometimes they will fail, but failure can foster critical thinking, patience, and personal resilience

Innovation Academy pilots must also assess whether students increase their soft skills by taking the course. The Innovation Academy partners with assessment specialists to develop instruments to assess students’ creativity, problem solving social awareness and entrepreneurial skills.

Innovation Academy courses resonate with the ‘convergence space’ concept of UNM’s InnovateABQ campus in Downtown Albuquerque’s Innovation District. While Innovation Academy courses can be in many places, bringing together people with disparate interests sparks creativity. UNM’s faculty and students can brainstorm with local entrepreneurs from all sectors, including the creative arts and design community, and the high-tech economic sector. UNM’s Arts Lab and the ABQ+UNM City Lab offer additional locations for IA work.