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Innovation for Impact Back with New Focus: Sustainability

In Winter 2021, Executive-in-Residence Sharon Topper and TV mentor-extraordinaire Tim Gunn teamed up to lead an intensive, three-week course called Innovation for Impact. Selected students worked with Topper, Gunn, and guest speakers from different sectors to learn how to take their ideas for making the world a bit better and turn them into viable services or businesses.

This summer, Topper and Gunn are back with another version of Innovation for Impact: same energy, new focus.

Emerson Today: You’re back for another Innovation for Impact. Couldn’t get enough, huh? 

Tim Gun: That’s right – we can’t ever get enough! We love how the students are such free spirits and fearless, and have such wonderfully creative thoughts and ideas. It’s inspiring!

Sharon Topper: And personally, I can’t get enough of working alongside Tim – he brings so much truth, humor and mentorship both to the students and to me – I absolutely love it.

ET: The theme in Winter 2021 was looking for solutions that benefit humanity, referencing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  “Leading with Equity, Integrity, and Empathy”. This time, you’re narrowing the focus to “sustainable development”. Can you talk a bit about why you chose that theme?

ST: Last year’s class was incredible – the students just amazed us with their ideas, each one addressing a different human need. This year, Emerson has committed to a new focus on sustainability and we decided that this is a wonderful opportunity for our students as well. To empower them to understand that whatever they can dream of, they can do.

TG: In a broader spectrum, we would like to hope that students would take on the responsibility of sustainability, and this focus will ensure that they will. 

ET: I suspect that when a lot of people think about “sustainability,” they think first about climate science and technology. What role do artists and communicators have to play in meeting the UN’s sustainable development goals?

ST:  Nothing happens without communication and the arts. It’s one thing for scientists and technologists to create solutions, it’s quite another to make people listen and understand why it matters.. Emerson students are experts at that. 

ET: So, the theme is different this year – is the format of the class the same as last time around?

ST: It is very similar to last year. We will have 2 weeks online and then the finale is in person at Emerson. 

ET: What will a strong application for this class look like?

TG: We’re looking for a combination of passion and practicality – we want projects that can actually be implemented to make a mark. And as we’ve learned from last year 1+1 = 10: When you have students coming from different disciplines across the college, working in teams, there is no stopping them. It’s an incredibly powerful dynamic. 

ET: What are you most excited about? 

ST:  For me, the most exciting thing is watching what happens every day when we connect students with each other around empowering ideas, with inspiring talks from industry experts, and mentorship – it’s an incredible learning experience both for them and for us frankly! 

TG:  It is also so thrilling to bear witness to the students’ growth over this very short intense period. And we know that’s going to happen.

To learn more, or to apply, visit the Innovation for Impact web page.

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