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Innovation Day - How to unleash your network's full potential

Innovation Day – How to Unleash Your Network’s Full Potential

I might sound nostalgic and a bit idealist, but I’ve been dreaming of an Innovation Day that facilitates colleges working closely with businesses as if they were part of the same environment ever since I was in high school. Rushed like all teenagers, I couldn’t wait to become an adult and make this world go round myself.

Back then, accelerating the process of adulthood meant extracurricular projects. I used to get involved in all sorts of initiatives. Everything new and different from school stuff, such as an innovation day, for instance, excited the heart out of me. I loved getting together with fellow classmates and having fun learning. We had some sort of fun during classes, as well, but it just wasn’t the same. What we learned during project work either expanded our worldviews or helped with what we were studying from the beginning. We still had that self-sustainable childish curiosity to stimulate us.

I remember having this deep appreciation for the relationships we’d build with our teachers. They respected us and believed in us. And the feeling was mutual – we, as their students, trusted their guidance and were grateful for it. As a result, our projects got rewarded at national and international competitions.

But then, college time came and I found myself apart from either group. Misfit among students and even further from the “mean” teachers talking for two hours straight. Don’t adults breathe when talking about statistics and marketing? I used to ask myself. It took me a while to understand and integrate this “next level”. At first, probably just as any other student, I saw it as a good & bad situation. As in – the past was good, the present is bad.

So, I separated from the crowds and dived right into the NGO that changed my life. I replaced high school events with learning experiences such as Innovation Day and initiatives with real-time projects that I truly believed would bring positive change into our communities. I was extremely happy. But, I let go of something very dear to me – the relationships I used to have with my teachers. Those powerful connections and safety nets for life. That wise guidance and those “strategic” people that had cared enough to shape my future and character till that point on.

Entrepreneurial University – the project that integrates Innovation Day

On Monday, April 3rd, 2017, I took part in Innovation Day – a one-day event part of the Entrepreneurial University project. One or more faculty members represented most specializations of Ovidius University in Constanta – IT, Economics (my old school), Natural Science, Pharmacy, Psychology Studies, etc. I was the AYG representative there, as part of today’s business environment.

In these terms of network building, Entrepreneurial University is a complex project aiming to reinforce on the crucial links between students, teachers and the business environment. Its scope is to support colleges in equipping students with entrepreneurial mindsets and behaviors relevant to both their educational entities and today’s working society. Junior Achievement (JA Romania), the Romanian – American Foundation and other European partners came together to support the involved institutions with training, case studies, and other materials, curriculum for everyday courses, practical entrepreneurial development modules and access to their HEI (Higher Education Institution) platform and tools.

Innovation Day – The Monday I shifted my root perspective once more

Innovation Day is one small bit of this two years project. It addresses Ovidius University stakeholders – faculty, students, and entrepreneurs. It reaches out to those of us able to directly influence and support change and intersectoral collaboration, thus centering the educational institution. Thus, the event I took part in, aimed at brainstorming solutions on the following 3 topics:

  • Current curriculum that supports entrepreneurial practices and improving its approach
  • Companies Ovidius University can work with for further research and development
  • Practical methods to turn Ovidius University into an innovation and research hub at regional and international level

Innovation Day got me working on the third topic. Basically, we came up with 6 methods which, implemented in the following 3 years, would turn the educational institution into an inter-regional hub.

For starters, I was impressed to identify the University’s major needs – promoting the learning activities it organizes, attracting funds (no, this was no surprise) and establishing stronger partnerships with both other HEIs and business environment representatives. Overlap the first and the last direction and you find that the current situation calls for intense networking and money. To me, this sounds a bit like sustainability needs.

The 6 methods we identified during Innovation Day to cover those gaps were:

  • Creating virtual international research hubs
  • Implementing a strategic Research and Innovation department for each Faculty
  • Developing and Implementing a Tutorial Program together with representatives from the business environment to mentor students
  • Digitalizing courses in the form of international webinars
  • Developing and applying projects with a direct impact on society
  • Inviting international personalities to teach courses or hold any sort of learning events.
  • Indeed, that’s pretty bold. But, at the same time, I can’t refrain from asking myself – what’s there to stop us?

    At Innovation Day, I’ve seen faculty who not only still believe in their students, but they rely on them to raise standards, question everything and become relevant to their society. I’ve seen entrepreneurs genuinely trying to bring about that positive change and coming up with actual ideas to facilitate the process.

    And it feels great that us, as AYGers, are part of that movement, as well. I’ve met students full of energy, vision, and ideas who strive for deeper communication and rely back on their teachers for guidance and models. So, all of this encouraged me to conclude that all those ideas we generated are, in fact, real and achievable.

    All we need is that entrepreneurial spirit to guide us into the actual implementation of things. 😉

    The story continues back at the Office after Innovation Day

    Back then, in high school, I was a radical. Not my way? No problem, no way.

    Now, if there’s something I’ve kept learning about for the past years – more like for the past decade – that would be adaptability. I’m definitely not your most flexible fellow. Once I get used to them, I like things just the way they are. With a strong sense of loyalty, I integrate them so deep into who I am, that it becomes difficult to switch and change. Even more, I even have a tendency towards instant gratification. But I can manage that, thank you very much. :)

    Where am going with this? I’ve finally learned that, no matter how strong the stubbornness, you still have to deal with what’s right in front of you. Innovation day or not, you still have to take what you get and simply make the best out of it.

    To me, getting into college meant AIESEC more than it meant connecting with the professors I now respect and appreciate much more. It’s up to you! That was the slogan that got me into the organization which also enabled me to create and dare for more. Years later, it got me to a great place, here, at AYG – for which I’m completely grateful.

    Had I been more present during the actual courses, this Monday I could’ve gone up to one of my favorite teachers and thank them for a great A-ha Moment I had in the 3rd year about the economics of services. Had I only gotten closer to my teachers, maybe I would’ve fulfilled my dream of becoming one and I would’ve represented another stakeholder on Innovation Day.

    But because I worked with what I had then, rebellion and creativity :), things are different now. So, what I’m taking from Monday’s Innovation Day and what AIESEC has whispered into my ear and soul all along is that It’s up to me.

    And since at AYG we foster initiative and personal development, it’s up to me to create AYG’s Tutorial program for IT students. It’s up to me to bring the positive change. And it’s up to me to unleash the full potential of my network and use it to make it happen. So, I’ve already started working on that Tutorial Program. What are you working on?

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