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Partnership Grant and Shark Tank Competition

Showcases innovative ideas from across campus

United States | Isabella Koh

In a new, innovative initiative to foster academic enrichment opportunities, Andrews University hosted its first Andrews Partnership Grant and Shark Tank Competition on September 30. The program, modeled after the successful television series, featured four teams of faculty and staff entrepreneurs who presented to a live audience and panel of judges. Each team shared a proposal on which the audience members and judges voted. A total of $200,000 was distributed between the three winning teams.

Christon Arthur, the provost, explains, “This new Andrews University Academic Partnership Grant supports emerging interdisciplinary collaborations on our campus to integrate and energize curricula. Its purpose is to foster creative thinking and planning that will result in revitalization of curricular ideas and strengthen existing programs through initiatives that enrich the academic community and enhance the student experience.” He adds, “The funds will help create space and time to encourage innovative collaboration across disciplines and levels.”

The first funded project, titled “Innovation & Entrepreneurship Transformation of Engineering Curriculum,” received $100,000. Hyun Kwon, professor and chair of the School of Engineering, presented the initiative. Created through a joint effort by the School of Engineering and the Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, the project will establish a combined learning experience that fosters creativity, collaboration, and community connection. Funding from the competition will be used to establish a communication system with industry partners, alumni, and cross-campus resources. It will also help implement new engineering projects and equipment, strengthening design and prototyping skills within the existing curriculum.

“It is increasingly important for engineering students to get trained in the innovation and entrepreneurship mindset. Required skills include the ability to identify opportunities, to learn and relearn, readiness to embrace failures, willingness to embark on multi-disciplinary work and multitask, and the ability to pull teams together and communicate across boundaries,” Kwon reflects. “Our proposed innovation and entrepreneurship curriculum and environments will provide the opportunity for the university to work with external and internal partners and stakeholders, provide great education opportunities for engineering, and enhance cross-campus and external collaboration.”

A second project, “AU Abroad: An International Partnership for Learning, Research and Internships,” was presented by Vanessa Corredera, chair and associate professor of the Department of English, and Aaron Moushon, assistant dean for undergraduate education and Explore Andrews program director. An initiative that has been in the works for over a year, “AU Abroad” will create a summer extension program on the campus of Newbold College. It seeks to provide undergraduate students with an international opportunity to enroll in major and general education courses as well as access internships and research experiences. The Shark Tank Competition awarded the project $50,000 in funding, which will help jumpstart the program, providing scholarships for participating first-year students, subsidizing student housing and transportation in the UK, and placing students in internships with recognizable multinational corporations.

“This funding allows us to be much more than a study tour or study abroad experience,” Moushon explains. “This is unique in the sense that most field school opportunities are experienced at the graduate level. This proposal will allow undergraduate students an opportunity to engage in research and internships that will greatly impact their career readiness.”

The third project, which also received a $50,000 award, was “Trauma-Informed Academic Partnership.” The program seeks to integrate trauma education and skills training into the curriculum at Andrews University. The project was spearheaded by Heather Ferguson, associate professor of speech-language pathology & audiology, chair of the School of Communication Sciences & Disorders, and graduate program director of speech-language pathology; Charity Garcia, associate professor and program director for curriculum & instruction and director of K–12 education initiatives for the International Center for Trauma Education & Care; Luana Greulich, associate professor of special education, chair of the Department of Teaching, Learning & Curriculum, and special education program coordinator; Barbara Harrison, associate professor, interim chair, and undergraduate program director of the School of Nursing; Jenica Joseph, assistant professor in the School of Communication Sciences & Disorders; Rodney Palmer, associate professor of religion and chair of the Department of Religion and Biblical Languages; Ingrid Slikkers, assistant professor of social work and executive director of the International Center for Trauma Education & Care; Curtis Vanderwaal, professor and chair of the School of Social Work; and Dustin Young, assistant professor of social work and director of higher education initiatives for the International Center for Trauma Education & Care.

Utilizing the combined insight of faculty from this variety of academic disciplines, the program was created as an action plan to address the snowball effects of COVID-19 stressors. The proposal aims to train faculty in understanding trauma and how it impacts learning and will also expose students to a comprehensive approach to trauma care. Over a three-year period, the grant will help provide training to both faculty and undergraduate students, create programs that inform new curriculum and pedagogy, and supply opportunities for off-campus experiential learning through community partnerships.

“This model is faith-affirming and innovative in that Andrews University is not only the first Seventh-day Adventist institution but also the only U.S.-based higher education institution to incorporate spiritually informed, trauma-specific knowledge and skills across the curriculum of multiple schools/departments and colleges,” states Palmer. “We believe this project will help to move Andrews to the next level of becoming a trauma-informed institution.”

Although not every proposal received funding from this round of the competition, each one represented the creativity and dedication of Andrews University faculty and staff. In the future, the university plans to host more Shark Tank competitions, presenting funding opportunities for continued innovation within the Andrews community. 

Anthony Bosman, assistant professor of mathematics, notes, “I was a part of several conversations with faculty from across the university, discussing how we can work together across disciplinary lines to reimagine curriculum. While not all of these discussions developed into full and funded proposals this year, the process spurred many innovative ideas that will keep us on the cutting edge of excellent, faith-based education.” 

Moushon affirms the importance of the opportunities provided by the competition, stating, “I see great value in university-funded programming, and this program provides a unique and exciting way to fund innovative projects. Typically, there is a much longer process to receive funding for academic initiatives, and the Shark Tank Competition allows administration an opportunity to hear new and exciting ideas and fun initiatives that have potential to benefit the campus community.”

The original article was published on the official Andrews University Agenda news site.

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