Buffalo State’s Year of the Innovator (YOTI) began last September with cupcake designer, a manufacturer, and a jewelry designer—all alumni and entrepreneurs—sharing stories of their innovative process and success.
Spearheaded by the School of the Professions, YOTI has subsequently celebrated all aspects of innovation—from technological inventions to business startups to artistic endeavors. Over the past academic year, more than 75 YOTI-related events have taken place on campus.
YOTI culminated with the 14th annual Creativity Expert Exchange Conference, June 14–16, hosted by the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC). More than 100 participants from the United States, Mexico, and Canada participated—a mix of alumni, students, visiting academics, and creativity professionals. On the first night of the conference, participants honored the late Alex Osborn whose seminal work in creativity education and brainstorming led to the establishment of the ICSC in 1967.
“It was by far the best conference we have had,” said Gerard Puccio, professor and director of the ICSC. “Celebrating Alex Osborn was a big piece of that. It inspired us go through the archival material his family donated to the Butler Library. We put it on display. Eleven of his family members attended and were touched that we were honoring him.”
John Osborn, the former president of the Creative Education Foundation that his grandfather founded, told Puccio that he knows of no other organization that carries out his grandfather’s vision the way the ICSC has.
“It is so fitting that our culminating Year of the Innovator event recognizes Buffalo State as the home of creativity and innovation education,” said Rita Zientek, interim dean of the School of the Professions.
When YOTI began, she noted that the year would focus on innovative achievements across disciplines, and it did. Throughout the academic year, YOTI-related events included the introduction of the INCubator to help students launch their own businesses; a performance by Frank Warren, founded of the online confessional website PostSecret; a campus plaid design contest for Fashion Textile and Technology students; a binational study of Lake Erie; the opening of the TeachLivE Lab, in which teacher candidates use student avatars to prepare for the classroom; and a visit and master class by legendary Broadway star Ben Vereen.
Buffalo State also worked with local businesses to recognize innovative employees and partnered on community projects such as the Advanced Manufacturing Institute and the Smart Grid.
Former Buffalo State President Aaron Podolefsky conceptualized Year of the Arts for 2011–2012, and it was followed by Year of the City (2012–2013) and Year of the Teacher (2013–2014). YOTI marks the last of the college’s recognition of specially designated years.
However, Zientek doesn’t envision ending the campus’s commitment to innovation.
“We would like to use the Year of the Innovator concept moving forward,” she said, “to keep recognizing innovation on campus and spotlight great examples of innovation in students, staff, and faculty members.”
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