“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” A refrain we hear over and over again in the business world, and one that always resonates with us at Proctor. Independent schools can develop strategic plans, hire consultants to help formulate branding strategies, and spend countless hours whiteboarding the future direction of the organization, but when a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship lives deep within the school, effective strategy will evolve organically and continue to drive the school forward.
We enter a new year (and decade) with resolutions to be better. More exercise, less sugar. More time with family, less on technology. I have mixed feelings about the concept of New Year’s resolutions. While I appreciate the opportunity for reflection and the notion of self-improvement, I also recognize real self-improvement happens incrementally and is a far more complex process than a simple declaration as the calendar flips to a new year.
At the heart of Proctor’s educational model is the belief adolescents learn most deeply when they engage hands-on with their learning. Five years ago, Proctor launched a biannual Innovation Night to elevate the great work happening in our classrooms. Each fall and spring, we gather as a community to not only celebrate the work of our students, but to learn about the important issues they are wrestling with in their classes.
The Wise Center was packed Thursday evening for Proctor’s fourth annual Fall Term Innovation Night. Social Entrepreneurship, Engineering, and Culture and Conflict students shared their research, business plans, and progress on their robots with the community. Whether the subject matter was programming a robot to gather and distribute orbs into a specific location, researching the care of pregnant women in the prison system, or developing a business plan to sell and distribute imperfect produce to food deserts, this culminating celebration provides an unparalleled opportunity for students to take the uncomfortable role of teacher.
Each fall and spring, students have the opportunity to showcase projects from classes across disciplines at Proctor’s Innovation Night. Now in its fifth iteration, the event has become an embedded part of our academic calendar and serves as a celebration and culmination of the hard work our students have been doing all term. Academic Dean Derek Nussbaum-Wagler reflected, “It provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate the rich, valuable work that they have produced through our experiential learning opportunities”.
Proctor graduates are collaborative, ethical individuals, ready to contribute productively to their communities. At least that is what we have written in our aspirational Profile of a Proctor Graduate statement. But how do we get them there? Well, part of the answer might be found in last night’s end-of-the term “Innovation Night.”
During a visit to the Dartmouth Entrepreneurship (DEN) for Project Period, Dartmouth’s Director of Entrepreneurship,Jamie Coughlin, described innovation and entrepreneurship as THE 21st century skill students must possess as they enter the workforce. Over the past three years, Proctor has taken Jamie’s advice and run with it through the development of new courses in Social Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship, the adaptation of existing courses to focus heavily on hands-on innovation projects, and the introduction of semi-annual Innovation Nights to showcase student projects each fall and spring.