Thumbs up: Mentors recommend CCIC to colleagues


The Community College Innovation Challenge’s (CCIC) evaluation data contain rare 100% ratings. All 12 faculty or college administrator mentors whose student teams qualified as finalists for the 2021competition reported that they would recommend involvement in the CCIC to a colleague.

All of them also indicated that they expected CCIC to help students in their careers.

Two faculty mentors recently shared their perspectives on the Innovation Boot Camp where students interact with entrepreneurs, experts and industry professionals as they learn about business planning, stakeholder engagement, communication and marketplace dynamics before presenting their innovations to a panel of judges.  

“CCIC helped our team to learn a variety of skills including research, marketing, leadership, communication, teamwork and presenting to the public,” explained Bradley L. Howard, computer science division chair at Itawamba Community College (Mississippi) and Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) advisor there.

Piqued by an email

About this time last year he learned about CCIC from an email and presented info about it to PTK students. A group of students with different academic majors – computer science, business, biology and English – followed up and came to him with their idea for a water filtration system.

“CCIC did a great job helping students learn about marketing and business. No matter what field of study you are in, this is very important as we continue to market ourselves and our products,” he wrote.

Related article: Calling student innovators

The sense of collaboration that the American Association of Community Colleges, which runs the program with support from the National Science Foundation, fosters within the competition made a big impression on Howard and the Itawamba students: “The Innovation Boot Camp is a very fun experience and each of my students learned a lot in the process. One of the great things about the camp is getting to meet new people from across the nation and in different industries. We are still in contact with many of the people we met at the camp.”

Jared M. Ashcroft, the Pasadena City College assistant professor of natural sciences who mentored the 2021 winning team that included Sophia Ibargüen, also mentioned collaboration as a key skill that CCIC teaches.

“The most valuable aspect of the CCIC is it gives students a chance to work collaboratively on a project and lead in creating a new idea. The CCIC project provided an opportunity for students to work on a real-world problem and come up with a solution of how to solve the problem,” Ashcroft wrote. 

He also described CCIC as “a great opportunity to develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.”

What the students said

In surveys completed before and after the 2021 Innovation Boot Camp, a majority of the 40 finalists reported significant improvements in their listening and oral communication skills, and their knowledge of customer discovery processes, business value propositions, design thinking and strategic communication.

After the boot camp, most participating students reported that they were interested in entrepreneurship and owning a business versus about 20% who expressed an interest in these pursuits prior to the boot camp.

About the Author

Madeline Patton
Madeline Patton is an education writer based in Ohio.