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New Arizona State 'Future of Innovation' School Wants Students 'To Make a Difference'

Arizona State University has introduced a new school that examines how innovation operates within the maelstrom of technology and society. The School for the Future of Innovation in Society is launching with four master tracks, a graduate certificate program and a PhD. An undergraduate program and a minor will be introduced in 2016. So far 154 people have been admitted.

Founding Director David Guston called the new program a "unique opportunity" for the university and its community "to have an influence on not just the nature of technological innovation but social innovation and how those technologies and societal aspects merge and form new kinds of lives that people are going to be living."

The new degrees include masters in:

The master of science and technology policy degree, as an example, requires 30 credits of coursework, including an oral defense of a written applied project, a policy workshop in Washington, D.C. and an internship. Among the current students in that program are individuals with interests in renewable energies, open data, genetic regulatory policy and public health policy.

The 15-credit certificate program focuses on "responsible innovation in science, engineering and society." It's intended for people in those fields who "seek to advance science and technology to improve societal outcomes and to develop creative solutions to the fundamental global challenges of the 21st century."

The PhD degree will draw on the experts that populate many of Arizona State's research centers, including the Center for Biology and Society and the Center for Nanotechnology in Society.

"Innovation takes place everywhere in society. It is a process by which we all change the way we live our lives," said Clark Miller, the chair of that program in a video about the new school. "We need to find ways to push innovation out into society and really think about how we change the whole structure and our current ways of organizing society and the economy and markets so we benefit all people."

"Dramatic advances in science and technology mean we need more tools and greater understanding to guide our decisions if future innovations are to benefit all humans and not just a select few," said Michael Crow, president of ASU. "The new school will play a key role in preparing students for a future that will be driven by these advances and ensure that they are ready to do more than simply watch change happen."

The school has drawn faculty from varied fields, including social sciences, law and policy, renewable energy and marine conservation. Most of the instructors have been connected with the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO), a non-profit think tank that works with the federal government on issues involving science policies and their impact on society in terms of justice, freedom and quality of life. CSPO was brought to Arizona State by its co-founder, the university's current President, Michael Crow. It's co-directed by Guston and Daniel Sarewitz, a professor of science and technology. CSPO will continue to have a close affiliation with the school.

"The challenge is we've built a society that's dependent on innovation...but we're innovating faster than we know how to manage that innovation," noted Professor Andrew Maynard, an expert in risk innovation and one of the school's new faculty. "We need new ways of making sure that innovation is helping people and not going to harm them." The bottom line for the school, he added, "is making a difference in society."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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