Join PUC’s Newest Class: The Innovation Lab

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This spring quarter, there’s a new class at PUC, called the Innovation Lab, which takes a unique approach to learning. We asked Dr. John Nunes, chair of the department of business administration and economics, to tell us more about the class and why students should be interested in taking it.

How did the idea for the Innovation Lab class come about?

Last summer, Mark Ishikawa, associate vice president of advancement and strategic partnerships, planned a meeting in the Silicon Valley at Google with PUC alumni who were working in tech in the Bay Area and the idea was sparked by a discussion on entrepreneurship we had with the group in attendance. We felt offering a class with a “shark tank” type competition would create an excellent experience for students and foster engagement on the part of our alumni.

What type of student should take the class?

Really anyone with a creative mindset. They need to be comfortable working with ambiguity (this isn’t a textbook answer class) and enjoy working collaboratively with others who possess complementary skills needed to make their idea a success. Other than that, we don’t care what major or class standing they have.

Why should someone take the class?

This class will simulate “real world” product and service ideation business planning and can be leveraged as effective experience in a for-profit or nonprofit setting.

Tell us about the structure of the class—how often it meets, how the groups are organized, etc.

The class is scheduled to meet on Tuesday and Thursdays from 2-2:50 pm, but will be project vs. lecture based. Students should assemble their own team of three people before the class commences so they can hit the ground running!

What other faculty members are helping with the class? How involved will they be?

Professor Michelle Rai, chair of the department of communication, and professor Milbert Mariano, chair of the department of visual arts, will both play a big role coaching written and visual messaging for the business plans students develop during the class. Depending upon technical requirements of the specific project, Dr. Aimee Wyrick, chair of the department of biology; Dr. Kent Davis, chair of the department of chemistry; Dr. Steve Waters, chair of the department of math, physics, and engineering; and other specialized faculty in other disciplines may be engaged as coaches. It all depends upon the needs of the projects students create.

What can students hope to gain from taking this class?

Regardless of major, almost every student is going to end up working for some sort of business enterprise, even if they are the proprietor. Gaining experience on how to create a new product or service and how to turn it into good currency is a critical skillset. In other words, being able to not just explore, but to exploit ideas to form solutions to make the world better is what this class is all about.

Tell us about the pitch process.

On June 4th, each three-person team will pitch their idea (probably 10-15 minutes each) to a group of venture capitalist and entrepreneur judges. They will evaluate the merits of each group to determine a winner.

What is the grand prize?

The guaranteed grand prize is $1,000 to the group with the best pitch. However, based upon merit, other prize money or seed money for the enterprise may be earned. It is even possible an incubator may be created on campus for a group that wishes to execute their business locally with free space for one year. However, only the $1,000 prize is guaranteed for winners.

Interested in signing up to take the Innovation Lab class? Stop by Irwin Hall to talk with Dr. Nunes during his office hours or email jnunes@puc.edu.

Recent business graduate Michael Lawrence talks with Dr. John Nunes in the department of business.

Recent business graduate Michael Lawrence talks with Dr. John Nunes in the department of business.

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