Innovation Nation — the College of Business’ first-year experience living-learning community — was an incredible success last year. Blurring the lines between campus and community, Innovation Nation pushes this generation of doers and go-getters beyond the classroom and into networking, leadership and business.
Due to the growth of the program, our living-learning communities now span three residence halls — Weatherford, Poling and the ILLC Global Village — and include nearly 600 students. With the momentum of our first year under our belt, the second-year experience is the next step in our student success initiative. This year we will focus on mentoring, leadership development and professional exploration.
Last year we launched our living-learning community model for our freshmen based on national research studies and exceptional results from our pilot program within Weatherford Hall (the Austin Entrepreneurship Program). The dramatic positive results inspire us to do more each year our students are with us.
“Launching Innovation Nation for the freshmen was an all-hands-on-deck initiative within the college,” said Mitzi Montoya, dean of the College of Business. “It demonstrated the deep commitment to student success. Embedding students into the business curriculum, professional development and experiential learning from day one will help our students succeed at OSU and later in their careers.”
That all-in commitment made a difference: Retention numbers (the number of freshmen students returning for their second year) at the College of Business are on the rise.
“We expect we’ll see about a 90 percent retention rate this fall, up from around 81 percent in the previous year,” said Montoya, noting that final retention numbers aren’t released until the following fall.
“We made something of a promise to our first-years in Innovation Nation,” said Sandy Neubaum, director of student engagement. “We know how to help students succeed. What our incredible results have shown is that we all take this very seriously, and we are committed to our students at every stage of their education. It is going to be another fantastic year as we add this next layer for our sophomores.”
Among the most significant changes was the revamp to the way we introduce business to first-year students. In addition to classes that introduced basic principles, our students formed teams, created business plans and launched a microenterprise or community service project. At the end-of-year trade show in Austin Hall, 67 student teams showcased their businesses and sold products and services to more than 700 guests at the college.
In a similar fashion, our new three-part “learning lab” series for sophomores will build students’ skills and prepare them for success in their majors and internships. Students will participate in a ten-hour apprenticeship on a specific topic that is a deep dive into a technical area — e.g., accounting, information systems or marketing — and delivers a specific professional skill — e.g., analytics, coding or digital media.
A new focus of the second-year experience is soft skills development, peer mentoring, and professional networking skills. From cover letters to social media presence, students will learn how to build and maintain their own professional brand.
Fridays in Austin, the event series that brought a packed calendar of professional- and leadership-development workshops and seminars last year, will continue to inspire students in the second year.
Last year, we averaged about ten per Friday in Austin and brought in more than 400 volunteers, including alumni and new industry friends, to interact with and mentor our students. If it was Friday, it was busy in Austin Hall.
For the second-year experience, we foresee an even greater opportunity for Fridays in Austin to partner with the business community. Please plan to join us for another adventurous and inspiring year if you are in the area — or host our students to visit you wherever you are.