'Design thinking is a new form of problem-solving.'
By Michael Souza PBN Staff Writer
Not long ago corporate sponsorship at local colleges most often would mean a financial contribution to help with a particular event or to support athletics.
At the University of Rhode Island, for example, sponsorship is the mainstay for the school’s athletic programs for advertising and funding, including the Ryan Center and the Boss Ice Arena. The same can be said in varying degrees for the state’s other large educational institutions.
Today, however, businesses are helping higher education in ever more creative ways, including donating materials and expertise in the classroom.
In January, the Rhode Island School of Design offered a six-week studio course heavily influenced by the world-renowned Swarovski, maker of fine jewelry, which had worked with the school in the past. Students toured their world headquarters in Cranston and were introduced to the history, materials, philosophy and capabilities of its products.
Well-known artists lectured at the school and shared ideas with the students, who were exploring the possibilities of working with Swarovski Elements, one of its product lines. The course allowed students to experience a creative and innovative, hands-on approach to working with new materials and techniques.
Finished pieces used a wide range of the company’s products, from chandelier materials and figurines to beads, crystal thread and crystal appliqué.
At Brown University, the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics has partnered with companies such as Microsoft, IBM and Google, each of which has representatives on the institute’s scientific advisory board. Brown also cooperates with several companies to hold workshops, conferences and research relevant to industry.
“We have a variety of different ways in which we support higher education institutions,” said Rachel Durfee, a Google spokesperson for global communications and public affairs. “Google thrives on academic curiosity. We conduct in-house research and engineering, and we also maintain strong relations with academic institutions around the world. It’s part of our mission to build the most advanced and usable methods for information access.”
The RISD course was led by Painting Critic Mary Jones. “It was a great opportunity for the students in the painting department,” she said. “The students had the chance to work with a corporation and to collaborate with them in terms of their mission statement. They also had the chance to work with these new materials.”