2021 Higher Education Innovation Summit Ignites Educational Innovation

Authored By: dies0044 07/09/2021

The 2021 Higher Education Innovation Summit, hosted by the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR), pivoted from its usual on-campus format this year to provide a two day virtual conference that gathered more than 100 professionals from colleges and universities around the United States, Australia, Canada and Ireland. Connecting creative educators and researchers, the Summit sought to transform higher education through innovations that enhance student learning.

Attendees had the option of attending a variety of sessions to further explore the challenges of, “What works in higher education?”; “How do we know?”; and, “How might we collaborate with one another to advance innovations that make a measurable difference?”

“Delayed a year because of the pandemic, the Summit was a long-time coming,” said Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Ratliff-Crain. “Despite that, there was little change in the planned program over that year, illustrating the persistent importance of the topics. That said, the pandemic colored the discussions -- often sharpening contrasts, testing out techniques and heightening the urgency around topics such as well-being and mental health.

Dr. Cathy Davidson gave an inspirational keynote speech titled, "Revolutionizing Learning" where she shared the history of higher education and challenged Summit attendees to change higher education for the different and complex world we live in now. “We can revolutionize higher education. We can do anything,” Davidson declared, concluding her presentation with, “Every student counts. We should wake up counting. That should be the message of higher education for all of us."

Among the sessions, UMR’s own faculty, Aaron Bruenger and Jennifer Wacek, presented “Making Narrative Reflection an Intentional Community Practice” where they focused on the use of curricular scaffolding to improve student skills with narrative reflection in order to create a community practice of transformative learning. 

“I appreciated the opportunity to learn with other educational innovators and engage in thoughtful conversations about what matters in higher education, the successes we have gained and the challenges we face. I found it to be a revitalizing way to wrap up a challenging year of teaching,” Bruenger shared.

Brad Hokanson, a faculty member at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities College of Design also presented and attended the Summit. Brad’s presentation, titled “Developing Creativity in Higher Education: Research in the Classroom” described the sessions as interesting, both as a presenter and as an audience member. “I appreciated the diversity of ideas and activities presented,” he added.

With plans underway to host the third Higher Education Innovation Summit in 2023 at UMR, Vice Chancellor Ratliff-Crain voiced his enthusiastic review upon wrapping this year's event. “The discussions and sessions represented a truly holistic understanding of student success, development and the teaching that facilitates these goals. I’m most appreciative of the presenters and colleagues who made this special set of presentations and discussions possible,” he remarked.