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The Big Ideas Initiative is introduced to facilitate change on the Drake Campus


Drake University is introducing the Big Ideas Initiative this semester, encouraging students to become more involved with facilitating change at the school. The initiative, under the supervision of President Martin and Provost Mattison, is being executed by the University Advancement Department.

John Smith, vice-president of the UA Department, describes the initiative as “a positive process encouraging collaboration, further deepening campus engagement with Advancement, and identifying multiple, compelling & powerful big ideas.”

Smith stated that it is his hope that by defining and organizing ideas, donors will “be inspired to invest in current and future generations of students.”

Students can submit a “big idea” via the initiative’s website, which can be found in the most recent edition of OnCampus which can be accessed on news.drake.edu. In order to submit an idea, students must have a faculty or staff sponsor, called a “champion.”

According to the Big Idea website, “Each submission is required to name a project champion, the primary individual responsible for administration and supervision of the project. The champion must be a current Drake employee. Students and volunteers cannot be champions. A faculty or staff member must serve as the project champion and submit the proposal on their behalf.”

The submission period for Big Idea proposals will remain open until Feb. 15. As students are preparing their proposals, they are encouraged by the Big Idea Initiative to consider why Drake is in a unique position to house the project, how it will provide meaningful change for Drake, and what commitments, in terms of time and funding, will be required. The proposals can be related to any aspect of Drake life.

“Big Ideas calls on faculty, staff and students to collaborate on ideas that take all Bulldog experiences into consideration; providing yet another opportunity to be a key voice in progressing our institution,” said Jose Garcia-Fuerte, student body president and student representative on the Big Ideas steering committee. “I hope students bring about change that will continue to rank Drake as one of the tops intuitions in the nation.”

After the submission window has closed, the steering committee will review proposals, selecting some for review by the Board of Trustees in April. In May, White Papers (in-depth papers about a topic) will be developed for the top ideas and finalists will be announced in July.

The steering committee is composed of academic deans, members of the president’s office, faculty, board members and the all-staff council. Garcia-Fuerte is the only student on the committee, providing insight into what the student body would like to see come out of the initiative.

“While maintaining presence in administrative roles, I am able to provide the experiential perspective of how institutional changes influence and impact the student experience – that is why it is important that students are critical and honest with their feedback,” Garcia-Fuerte said. “Institutional leadership takes these comments into serious consideration when making decisions.”

Garcia-Fuerte said he sees the Big Ideas Initiative as part of a long pattern of students taking steps to produce change at Drake. He cites student influence in the construction of Collier-Scripps Hall and the Science Connector Building as recent examples.

“From classroom concepts to availability of resources, students had the opportunity to make the buildings the way they wanted,” Garcia-Fuerte said. “Additionally, students had expressed great activism in shifting towards environmentally-conscious and sustainable decisions – both of the aforementioned buildings are now LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Green Globe certified.”

Smith similarly notes that the recent renovation of Cowles library had heavy student involvement.

“Drake has a strong history of inspiration and direction from student voices shaping the campus community,” Smith said. “Certainly through campus leadership roles, students have a meaningful presence in key University decisions. Most recently students provided strong and positive direction with the first floor renovation of Cowles Library and the design of The Ray Promenade.”

Both Smith and Garcia-Fuerte said the Initiative has the potential to generate a great amount of positive change at Drake.

“Big Ideas provides the campus the opportunity to imagine where Drake can be in the coming years by building off our greatest strengths and inspiring our alumni and friends to joyfully invest in the promise of this remarkable University,” Smith said.

Garcia stresses that Drake’s leadership cares about and wants to hear from students. He encourages all students to keep pushing for change.

“Continue to bring forth ideas and changes you want to bring about on campus,” Garcia said. “We have institutional leadership that cares about their students and their experience on our campus and students’ intelligence is needed in creating the university we want.”

Graphics courtesy of Hannah Cohen

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