Texas A&M’s I-School Bringing New Opportunities for Student Leadership

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With the launch of the School of Innovation at Texas A&M last year, the university set out to make it a lot easier for motivated students to work together on creative projects outside of their normal coursework, and often outside their own disciplines of study. The I-School, as it’s called, is connecting students from different colleges and schools across campus, as well as faculty and former students from a broad range of disciplines, all with the aim of encouraging a culture of and active hub for innovation. And every idea and project is student-led.

Jennifer Briggs, Creative Manager at the School of Innovation, explained the I-Studio, one of the first student-led projects. “A group of four students put together a proposal to build a multimedia studio in one of the rooms in our building, pitched it to the I-School team, and the group is currently soliciting quotes from vendors for the equipment they will need for phase one,” Briggs said. “We hope to start installing phase one in the next few weeks.”

In establishing the vision for the I-Studio project and preparing the required project proposal, the student leaders learned to make a case for their vision. They contrasted their vision with existing campus resources like the library’s One Button Studio and were able to secure the funding required to move forward with phase one. A complement to the library’s user-friendly, one-button approach to video recording, the I-Studio will offer expanded video and podcast capabilities. Where the One Button Studio helps with “the creation of media-enriched instructional projects,” the new I-Studio aims to be a place where students can bring their extracurricular passion projects.

Omar Guzman, a Senior Communications major from Arlington, Texas, is one of the students responsible for the I-Studio. He heard about the School of Innovation from a friend. “It’s a great place to go if you have ideas but don’t know where to start,” Guzman said. “The hardest part is just getting started. They [the I-School staff] have resources to help students generate and launch ideas.”

The I-School is also open to collaborations with members of the community and faculty on campus. Faculty and staff at A&M can serve as mentors for teams of students, helping to keep projects on track and offer guidance in their field of expertise. If you’re running a local business or a non-profit, you may have problems that college students would enjoy solving. Students are particularly adept at technological problems involving websites, social media, and computers. In the future, the program may connect students with paid internships and other opportunities in the community.

Started little over a year ago, the School of Innovation is still taking shape. The easiest way to learn more is by talking to their team at the HEEP Laboratory Building. The campfire area in the first-floor lobby (in the picture) was established as a place to discuss ideas and see how the I-School can help. Joan Quintana, class of 1992 and a local entrepreneur and frequent volunteer on campus, explained why she is excited to see the I-School in action.

“The other education is well-established as a distinct part of the Texas A&M culture and tradition of educating leaders,” she said. “The I-School is presenting opportunities for new types of extracurricular activities that allow students to build leadership skills by struggling through the process of bringing ideas to fruition, trying their hands at something new, testing theories, and developing new skills, and that’s a win for the students, our university, and the community at large.”

For more information on the School of Innovation and how to get involved, students, faculty, staff, former students, and members of the community can visit them online at https://innovation.tamu.edu/, call (979-862-6071), or drop by HEEP Laboratory, located next to Central Campus Garage.

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