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Emerson Looking at Scaling Up ‘Learning Ventures’ with Innovation Institute

Emerson is one of 54 colleges and universities selected to participate in the 2022 Curriculum-to-Career Innovations Institute, an 18-week virtual program that helps strengthen the connection between classroom learning and the world of work.

The Institute is co-directed by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&A) and IBM, and runs from August 11 to December 16, 2022. Emerson will be represented in the Institute by a team led by School of the Arts Dean Rob Sabal, and including Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Jim Hoppe; Career Services Director Carol Spector; Emerson Los Angeles Academic Director Mikhail Gershovich; Senior Associate Director of Academic Assessment Liz Chase; and Lu Ann Reeb, assistant dean of the School of the Arts and director of Entrepreneurial Studies and Business Studies.

Screen shot of The Independent website, with photos and text
The Independent is an example of a “Learning Venture,” an educational model Emerson will be studying as part of the 2022 Curriculum-to-Career Innovations Institute.

“Our aim with this Institute is to find the sweet spot between higher education’s ability to meet the needs of a rapidly changing workforce and the desire of each campus to supply that career preparation in a meaningful way that is authentic to its mission and context,” Ashley Finley, AAC&U vice president for research and co-director of the Curriculum-to-Career Innovations Institute said.

At Emerson, Sabal and his team will be looking at expanding “Learning Ventures” – student-run businesses such as magazines, web series, podcasts, virtual/augmented reality, NFTs, etc., or that address the content or marketing needs of clients – as part of the Institute.  

A current example of this model is The Independent, a struggling 44-year-old publication for and about independent film and media makers, which Emerson acquired in July 2020 and handed over to students to not just run, but revitalize.

“How do we scale this kind of initiative, that’s what we’re hoping to figure out [through the Innovation Institute],” Sabal said.

The team will explore how these Learning Ventures address seismic shifts in creative economy, Emerson wrote in their application to the program. “Students will build, scale, and run these enterprises, while studying the cultural, social, economic, and technological changes affecting creativity in the workplace. Career preparation tools, micro-credentials and e-portfolios, will help students navigate the transition to the world of work.”

Through these Learning Ventures, students also are able to work toward social justice goals, both through the design and production of creative work that promotes community empowerment and equity, as well as by learning how to structure organizations that promote equity and justice, according to the application.

“Our goal for participating in the Innovation Institute aligns with the College’s goal to ‘encourage a pedagogy of equity and empowerment,’” Emerson wrote.

The goal of the program is to compensate students for their work via academic credit, tuition scholarship, or wages, making the Learning Ventures accessible to a broad swath of the student body.

What Emerson takes away from the Innovation Institute could also benefit other experiential learning initiatives at the College, including Social Impact Studios such as the Transforming Narratives of Gun Violence project, according to the application.

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