Celebrate! Innovation Week (ciWeek)

 

Des Moines Area Community College’s (DMACC) West Campus is not your typical college campus. Since it’s opening, DMACC has focused on making sure that all who walk on campus leave feeling inspired and knowledgeable about those who have made their mark on the world. According to Dr. Anthony Paustian, Provost, the campus is set up like a media museum where each room is dedicated to innovators of the past and showcases a 5 minute documentary outside the door. Wanting to build off of this, Dr. Paustian had a dream which turned into a reality when the first Innovation Week (iWeek) took place in 2010. The first iWeek showcased Astronaut Alan Bean as the keynote speaker with breakout sessions led by faculty throughout the week. As the years progressed so did the events and in 2012 the week-long series of events was renamed Celebrate! Innovation Week (ciWeek). Each year DMACC hosts the annual ciWeek in which members of the university and the community are exposed to events that showcase people who have made their mark on the world.ciWeek 2016

Dr. Paustian notes that although this series is free to all attendees, it is modeled much like a TED convention that could cost upwards of $10,000 to attend. Paustian believes that “those who need to hear these stories, to see them first hand and get inspired by them, are the ones who don’t have the resources to go [to major conferences];” therefore, he strives to attract the best for his students and the surrounding community. This year the ciWeek consisted of 14 keynote sessions and featured presentations from a variety of different backgrounds. In an interview after the events, Presenter Howard Berger(of KNB EFX) noted that he “felt the eclectic array of speakers made every presentation unique.” Due to the various connections that are able to be made within the concept of “STEM”, DMACC wanted this year’s theme to center around the concept of having the freedom to dream and the opportunities to achieve those dreams. Dr. Paustian notes that in developing a theme they try to either think of speakers they want their students to hear or a concept they want them to learn and build the event from there.

Although he joked that this series has gotten so big he almost has no choice but to do it every year, Dr. Paustian truly enjoys putting on these events for the entire community. Having the support and backing of both local as well as nationally recognized companies who are able to fully fund all of the programs, he believes that DMACC is truly making a difference. He knows that he cannot inspire everyone and that all attendees will walk away with a different outlook; however, feedback from students and members of the community are crucial to improving ciWeek. Written responses from students, emails from parents such as the one saying “my daughter had no idea what she was going to do until she listened to Cassie Lee and now she’s in the Aerospace Engineering Program at Iowa State University,” as well as members of the community who are always in attendance, are the reasons why these events continue to be successful. In looking at the big picture and all the time and energy that goes into making it happen, Dr. Paustian notes that “If [these events] can inspire one person to change our world for the better, it is worth it.” Based on student reactions, including Class of 2018 member Philip Graham, Dr. Paustian’s creation in itself is changing the world one ciWeek at a time.