By Kat Shupe, Senior in Zoology
This past semester, myself and a team of 11 other students from a variety of disciplines were the first members of the Student Innovation Team at the Hub. This team was formed to allow for student input on large-scale university opportunities and issues. Our team was a mixture of domestic and international students from 10 different majors in 6 different colleges who seamlessly communicated, analyzed, laughed, and created solutions with each other in weekly meetings. Over the course of the semester, we worked as student consultants on projects across the Michigan State community. These projects focused on space design, curriculum and course enhancement and design, as well as engagement challenges.
Each meeting began with activities that allowed us to open our minds to today’s material, while directing us towards our empathy-centered approach for working. Our first step was a whiteboard with four questions that varied from being about our week, our education, our workplace values, or our personal values. We would each discuss one of our answers and then move into a more physical activity. These activities included: Asking 5 “Whys”, improvisational activities, long conversations with our eyes closed, etc. This activity always directed our thinking towards the analytical framework that we would be learning about that day. This allowed us to engage with each other in a creative way, as well as being a stepping stone for the empathetic communication that fuels our meetings.
Our team was broken up into two groups, one meeting on Thursday and one on Friday, therefore, we were able to build off of each other’s work from the previous meeting. Each week our incredible Hub leaders, Libby and Liz, would direct our conversations and teach us the creative problem solving skills of systems and design thinking. We would begin working on a new project or pick up from where the group last left off and tackle the greater challenges of the project at hand. Through a combination of user research and independent contribution, we worked together to evaluate specific parts of the project. In a given day we could be out of the hub conducting research, working together as a larger group, or divided into sub-groups tackling different aspects of the project.
At the end of each meeting we would all gather and discuss what went well during that session, and how we could make it better. It was always harder to think of responses to the latter. From the first day, my group worked together seamlessly. We were able to listen and empathize with each other, as well as move each other forward. We could teach each other values that we learned from our disciplines and personal experiences, or help one another find ways to verbalize our thoughts more constructively. At our first end of meeting discussion, our wishes were to find ways to spend more time with each other outside of The Hub, and that speaks volumes to me.
We would work on each project for either a few continuous weeks, or for just one session. Libby and Liz would put together the deliverables and we were encouraged to be a part of the pitch to the organization we were working with. Libby and Liz built an online toolbox for us to have access to all of the projects we worked on, as well as documents and resources on the various research strategies we learned about and used together to build these deliverables.
The Hub put together this team to allow university programs to seek student input on their new challenges. However, in doing this, the Hub cultivated a place for a group of students to engage with each other, learn from each other, and contribute to our greater community at Michigan State. The relationships we built over this semester will extend far beyond the walls of Wells Hall, the same as our time together frequently extended beyond the end of our scheduled meetings. I had a pleasure being a part of the first Student Innovation Team and I look forward to it’s continued influence throughout campus.