Jan. 28, 2020

How do you inspire students to innovate? FutureU

New experiential learning program helps UCalgary students find their place in a rapidly changing world

University of Calgary students thinking about their place in the world outside of the classroom have a new co-curricular opportunity that kicks off in February 2020: FutureU.

FutureU is part of the Innovation@UCalgary ecosystem, and strives to help students build a sustainable and healthy life for themselves, working on challenges they care about.

The theme for its first iteration is Innovation in Climate Action. Through a series of networking sessions, experiential workshops and ideathons, students have the opportunity to get curious and test out innovative solutions to challenges related to climate change. Students will explore emerging trends and ideas that are shaping our world, meet with local leaders who are making an impact, and develop future skills to better navigate rapid change.

Identify challenges and help students make a difference

“This is a topic that is front of mind for many students, and each faculty and department has interesting knowledge and skills to contribute to the challenges we face,” says Kevan Coyle, program and community development specialist. “Our program is designed to identify challenges and related opportunities, to help students learn how to take action, and to them empower them tools to make an impact with their ideas.”

The free program is open to all students on campus, and isn’t targeted to any one faculty or level of study. Students can attend just one session, or all of them – FutureU is designed to be fun, accessible, and thought-provoking throughout, and places an emphasis on curiosity and inquiry, instead of deliverables and assessment.

Up first is a series of Climate Talks Feb. 11-13, 2020, focused on three areas: Cleaner Energy and Healthier Environments, Inspiring a Changemaking Culture, and Reimagining Our Institutions. At these workshops, students can take part in discussions with faculty members, staff members and community members to explore interdisciplinary ways to take part in climate action.

Builds on entrepreneurial thinking courses

FutureU draws inspiration from entrepreneurial thinking courses in the Haskayne School of Business, programs offered through the Leadership and Student Engagement Office and the Office of Sustainability, and the teaching and learning expertise in the Taylor Institute. The program aims to be complimentary to everything else that is available to students on campus, and to begin strengthening ties between these various organizations and programs.

“Over the past few years there has been an explosion of interest in innovation, as more people are called to solve global challenges and to find new ways to make an impact,” says Dr. Steve Larter, associate vice-president (research and innovation). “If the University of Calgary is to become Canada’s leading innovation university, we need to be inspiring and supporting our students to innovate and be entrepreneurial, as they are the biggest population on campus who can help us transform our culture and more effectively address challenges and create impact in the community.”

How students can get involved

Students who want to get involved can register for the Climate Talks, and check out the entire program on the FutureU website, and connect to the FutureU online community offered through MentorLink.

Larter also encourages faculty to get involved if they’re interested in innovation, or want to demonstrate for students how their ideas and research can have impact beyond the classroom.

“We encourage those who are interested to connect with us directly and open up a conversation about ways we can work together,” Larter says. “This may include classroom-based activities that connect innovation with your course content, to thought leadership opportunities to share the relevance and impact of your research, to opportunities to mentor students working on projects relating to your research, or to join one of the many startup and venture teams active in this space.”

FutureU is supported by the Research Support Fund and Incremental Project Grant.

The federal government’s Research Support Fund (RSF) assists Canadian post-secondary institutions and their affiliated research hospitals and institutes with the expenses associated with managing the research funded by Tri-Council agencies (CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC). The Research Support Fund helps the university create an environment where researchers can focus on their research, collaborate with colleagues, and translate their discoveries and innovations. The Incremental Project Grant is a new stream of the RSF that focuses on innovation and commercialization activities, facilities renewal, information resources, and equity, diversity, and inclusion. Read more about how UCalgary uses the Research Support Fund.