College of Innovation and Design and Venture College at A&M-Commerce Making a Difference Early On

They have only been around for less than a year, but the College of Innovation and Design and its associated offering, Venture College, have been making great strides toward student success.

Started in Fall 2019, the CID combines facets of multiple disciplines to create an innovative student experience. The college currently offers four degree programs and features both traditional 16-week courses and competency-based endeavors.

Degree programs within the CID are Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences, competency-based Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with Law Enforcement Leadership Emphasis, Bachelor of General Studies, and competency-based Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in Organizational Leadership.

Dr. Yvonne Villanueva-Russell, dean of the College of Innovation and Design, said that the college is very “industry leaning,” meaning that course offerings and curriculum are based on what employers in the workforce are looking for in prospective employees.

“We utilize advisory boards comprised of working professionals and industry experts to provide guidance on the skills needed in today’s graduates,” Villanueva-Russell said. “We try to prepare students for what the market is demanding at the time.”

Even with just a handful of programs so far, the nascent college has gained a fair amount of traction already. Villanueva-Russell reported that 834 students enrolled in the CID for the Fall 2019 semester.

According to Villanueva-Russell, one of the things that makes the College of Innovation and Design unique is that it offers college credit for professional certifications. For example, the college’s criminal justice program offers credit for students who have received certification from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, or TCOLE.

“By giving someone credit for their professional certifications, it opens up pathways for leadership in law enforcement,” Villanueva-Russell said. “This is unique compared to some of our peer institutions.”

The dean said that A&M-Commerce President Dr. Mark Rudin has been very open to expanding the college’s competency-based offerings, and the CID is always looking for new ways to adapt to the needs of students.

One of the CID’s biggest successes so far has been Venture College, which also launched in Fall 2019.

Under the direction of Dr. Mario Hayek, Venture College seeks out people with vision, ideas and the do-something attitude to see their dreams come to fruition. Through weekly meetings, networking opportunities and business guidance, the program works to equip its members with the tools necessary to successfully market their ideas.

Venture College does not give course credit and functions much like an extracurricular activity. It’s built on the already-established Lions Innovation Showcase, where students pack into the Sam Rayburn Student Center to pitch their ideas and potential projects to professionals and community members alike.

“It’s all about looking into how you can create value,” Hayek said of the showcase. “We [the university] are usually so separate in how we do things. How about if we all just came together and had one huge event?”

According to Hayek, President Rudin contacted him last fall about creating Venture College, which is based on a similar model from Boise State University.

Venture College acts as an “entrepreneurship center,” where people meet every week to formulate and hone their ideas for products, services, new techniques and more.

Hayek said that at each meeting, members give a pitch on their idea, which holds everyone accountable and shows how their ideas grow and evolve over time. The group currently consists of 20 students working on 15 projects, but the college is not just open to students, but staff and faculty as well.

“Send me your hungriest people that want to get something done,” Hayek said. “If you want to execute an idea, whether it’s for-profit or non-profit, we want to help people put those ideas to work.”

The group has already held a networking event at the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce and is planning another one for the spring semester. Venture College has also garnered some envy among alumni.

“I have had several alumni tell me that they wish we had this when they were in school,” Hayek said. For more information about Venture College and how to join, contact Dr. Mario Hayek at [email protected]