VCU School of Business launches EPIC strategic plan to bring creativity into business

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In response to a changing business world, the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business has launched a strategic plan, EPIC, to harness and build on strengths, ensure continued innovation and impact, and boldly ignite a collaborative energy among students, faculty, staff, alumni and the business community in Richmond and beyond.

The vision for EPIC is to drive the future of business through the power of creativity.

From major corporations to startups, businesses need our graduates to contribute fresh thinking and creative solutions to drive future success.

“In this era of increasing complexity, businesses and professionals continually need to reinvent,” said School of Business Dean Ed Grier. “Leaders in every industry realize that the challenges of today and tomorrow won’t be solved through the same approaches that made them successful in the past. From major corporations to startups, businesses need our graduates to contribute fresh thinking and creative solutions to drive future success.”

As a former Disney executive who joined VCU in 2010, Grier knows the power of creativity to transform careers and organizations. Joining him at the helm is Ken Kahn, Ph.D., who most recently served as a professor of marketing and executive director of the VCU da Vinci Center — a unique and renowned collegiate model for innovation through cross-disciplinary collaboration. Kahn, an innovation scholar, was named senior associate dean this past July to help elevate and create a prominence around the new strategic vision.

“Companies are looking for critical thinkers, creative thinkers. If you can get a business degree and show some evidence that you actually are a creative thinker, that gives you a leg up,” Kahn said. “At the School of Business, we are creating a unique VCU experience around this notion of creativity — something different than what you'll get at any other business school.”

EPIC introduces a new framework, CREATE, for the school’s curricula, providing a problem-solving structure that students can take from the classroom into the business world.

Many stakeholders contributed to the plan’s creation. “We started thinking about [creativity] as our strength, because we’re in Richmond, which is becoming more a center of entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity,” said Shannon Mitchell, Ph.D., associate dean for undergraduate studies. “What we thought we brought was more of the general creativity to it, combined with quality teaching, research and community connections, and so it’s more about creative solutions to business problems.”

Student and alumni respondents to a survey last semester indicated that both groups already believe that VCU develops creativity more than other business schools. “By focusing on the EPIC Pillars — Experiential Learning, Problem-Solving Curricula, Impactful Research and Creative Culture — we will bring business creativity to life in a big way for our students and the entire community,” Grier said.

The school has already revised learning goals for portions of its undergraduate curriculum, starting with a new required course, Creativity and Ideation, taught by Joseph Coombs, Ph.D., academic director for entrepreneurship programs and associate professor of management. Graduate programs will be incorporating EPIC as well.

As for new projects, one major initiative driving the strategic plan this semester is the EPIC Challenge, a pathway to develop ideas that support EPIC. Unlike similar competitions, the EPIC Challenge is open not just to faculty and students, but to staff and alumni. Of the 35 teams that submitted proposals in the fall, five have been chosen to present their ideas in a “Shark Tank”-like competition for funding in March. The VCU School of Business Foundation is providing $750,000 to fund the challenge over the next three years.

The VCU School of Business community is already buzzing with EPIC excitement and anticipation that the strategic plan will distinguish it from its peers.

“We’re a great business school now,” Grier said. “EPIC will make us distinctive and position the school and our students to lead for the future.”


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