Higher Education for Undergraduate Innovation

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The purpose of this study is to examine the influence of collegiate environments and experiences on an emergent and socially beneficial higher education outcome: innovation. The study is framed using research questions that introduce a longitudinal (first-years) and comparative (first-years to seniors) quantitative design and an interdisciplinary theoretical framework comprising developmental and organizational perspectives. The study next introduces literature – drawn primarily from the fields of higher education and entrepreneurship studies – pertaining to those student inputs, college environments and experiences, and developmental outcomes theoretically and/or empirically associated with students’ innovation capacities.

Quantitative methods are next introduced, with detailed descriptions of the mode of administration, sample characteristics, the analysis plan, and limitations provided. Methodological conversation is continued in an appendix describing the development of new constructs designed to measure college experiences and an original outcome measure developed for use in this study: innovation capacities. The results of all correlation analyses, t-tests, ANOVAs, and regression analyses are then introduced.

The results broadly indicate that while no significant change in the outcome occurs in the first-year, as assessed using longitudinal data, seniors demonstrate significantly higher innovation capacity scores when compared to first-year students at the same institutions. Additionally, academic (e.g., assessments, faculty interaction, course-taking) experiences were more influential on promoting higher innovation scores among first-year students, even when controlling for pre-test scores; social experiences (e.g, connecting in-class learning to out-of-class challenges, career development), meanwhile, were more closely associated with higher scores among seniors, all else being equal.

The study closes with discussions and implications, suggesting that first-year students might be benefiting with regard to innovation more from experiences that encourage idea generation and seniors from opportunities to execute new ideas across a variety of contexts. Implications for future research in this area are offered, as are opportunities for theory building. Finally, practice implications are specifically provided for student affairs practitioners and faculty members; the conclusion reinforces the social importance and timeliness of this study.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.