Defining Academic Innovation

DEFINING

‘Jon Jasperson // Office of the Dean

One of the most prevalent buzzwords in the last decade of academia has been “Academic Innovation.” Used to justify anything and everything from new computers to new faculty, the existing use of the term Academic Innovation seems to flex and bend to whatever blank higher education needs to fill. As it stands now, it acts more as hyperbole than any one thing. However, the very idea of innovation (sans the academic or any other modifier) is derived from questioning the status quo and the notion that change starts inside a community.

With the root idea of innovation in mind, Academic Innovation seems to take on a different meaning, or at least different than the common scholarly use. In the same way that a challenge of the status quo comes from those inside a community, Academic Innovation must come from inside individual academic organizations. However, it isn’t a challenge in the name of insubordination or change for the sake of change, but rather, challenge and change for the betterment and elevation of the organization. When each academic organization elevates, academia as a whole elevates, too.

‘Jon Jasperson, Ph.D., Assistant Dean of Learning Transformation & Academic Technology, and Clinical Professor at Mays Business School, expounds on the idea of Academic Innovation as a collaboration within our learning community saying, “Academic Innovation is any effort by faculty, staff, programs, or students to introduce change, creativity, research, and best practices into what’s happening in education.” His insight allows the term Academic Innovation as it pertains to Texas A&M University and Mays Business School, to set heavier, sink deeper, and create a greater impact.

“Academic Innovation is saying, ‘What we have is great. …But could we be better?'” continued Jasperson. “Better could consist of being more well-rounded or more widely read, showing greater awareness of what’s happening in the world, investing in the community, or above and beyond faculty delivering or facilitating education conversations.”

For Mays and Texas A&M, Academic Innovation is paramount. Faculty, staff, and students here are in the practice of Academic Innovation, even if they don’t explicitly list it on their resume.

The signposts are easily read for how this focus is coming to life on-campus: the Learning Innovation Classroom Building at the old site of The Grove, Zoom collaboration software partnership, and announcements about a new Learning Management System. Every piece advances Texas A&M on the journey toward leading-edge, innovative education and a change to the betterment of our learning community.

For a public institution founded in 1876, the tension between driving toward the future of education and respecting beloved traditions remains. However, the character displayed by Aggies to out-work, out-perform, and out-serve expectations is a stalwart attribute that lives on from generation-to-generation.

Mays will continue to develop transformational leaders and employ the inherent characteristics of Aggies to facilitate that metamorphosis in students, products of Academic Innovation, not Academic Innovation as an end.

The same transformation is available to faculty as well. “Academic Innovation employed by faculty members can inspire other faculty members to continue to progress and better themselves and students,” said Jasperson.

Academic Innovation isn’t merely about one person doing something extraordinary. Instead, it’s a mindset and a movement to invigorate a community to progress the way an organization learns. There’s a vibrancy in trying, failing, succeeding, and learning. The process is ongoing and involves many and in a variety of ways, as the following pages show. Academic Innovation may be high-tech or high-touch. It may surprise you how it plays out, but it always results in a better, more effective way of developing and diffusing knowledge for the betterment of all people.