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Community Engagement through Innovation: The Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation

The GEMnasium was launched by the university’s Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation (IACT), which combines the emerging discipline of applied creativity with traditional values and approaches to community engagement. IACT is a curriculum-driven academic unit that originated out of the university’s Office of the Provost. This structure puts the IACT directly in conversation with all academic departments, as the provost serves as the chief academic officer to preserve, develop, and promote the university’s academic mission and vision. The IACT focuses on addressing challenging complex problems through a sustainable and humanity-forward process that blends educational and vocational frameworks for self-determination and transformation (University of Dayton, 2019).

The IACT was formalized as an academic institute in the tall of 2014 when it launched its first applied creativity curriculum pilot to the 50 student residents of IACT’s dynamic learning-living community. This first curriculum was designed and developed over a year-long collaborative process between nearly 60 faculty, staff, and Dayton regional partners whose expertise and vocations were brought together to develop an understanding of the application of creativity as an added value in an everchanging marketplace. The World Economic Forum (2016) indicated that the three skills that would be in the highest demand by 2020 were complex problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. The IACT curriculum was built as an adaptive framework that centers on those skills, as they can be applied across any discipline of study. Viewed through the prism of the university’s Marianist values, IACT emphasizes developing and utilizing these skills in communities dedicated to the common good, building a bridge between vocational and community engagement frameworks. The IACT is now home to the first and currently only transcripted undergraduate certificate in applied creativity. The certificate is open to students of all majors and graduated its second class in May of 2019.

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