Hundreds of Arizona State University students crowded the courtyard between the Health North and South buildings Friday afternoon in downtown Phoenix. On display were posters they’d worked on all semester, with titles like “One Nation under Opioids,” “Abuse at Geriatric Homes” and “HIV Accessibility in Nigeria.”
Tough issues for any undergrad to tackle but especially for a freshman, which all of them were. The posters were the culmination of a semester-long endeavor for their ASU 101 course called the Health Innovation Project.
Friday’s event, the Health Innovation Exhibition, was the College of Nursing and Health Innovation students' chance to showcase an original solution to a real-world problem within the health care industry.
Nancy Kiernan, senior director of academic services and ASU 101 instructor for the college, said the exhibition began three years ago as a way to “start infusing the innovation process as early as freshman year.”
“It’s really about getting them to think of themselves as problem solvers and critical thinkers,” she said.
ASU 101 instructors at CONHI start early in the semester introducing students to the step-by-step process by which innovative solutions are arrived at. First, students identify a health care problem to address, which can be a challenging process in itself.
Nursing freshman Rebecca Farias, whose team settled on “Prevention of Depression Through the Classroom,” said it took them a while to narrow down their topic. They started with the idea to address depression in general, then whittled it down to a particular stressor — in this case, depression caused by the transition from high school to college — then began to think of ways to prevent it.
“Some students struggle with the big picture,” Kiernan said. “This gets them to think about how to take a large-scale problem and work collaboratively with a team and meet deadlines to make an impact.”
Farias’ team’s solution was to send ASU students to talk to high school students about their own experiences and what to expect — a college-prep talk focused more on the social and emotional aspects rather than the brass tacks of financials and grades.
“We really had to think about all aspects of the problem to make the solution a reality,” Farias said.
In addition to encouraging students to think differently about how to address problems in their field, the project also teaches them basic research skills that no doubt come in handy later in their academic careers and beyond.
Community health freshman Nikkalaus Cheever said learning how to use the ASU Library’s online catalogue of scholarly articles was invaluable when researching statistics on homelessness for his team’s project, since sources of information need to be credible.
This was the first year in the exhibition’s three-year history in which a winner was named: “Lack of Comprehensive Sexual Education in Schools,” created by nursing freshmen Alena Britt and Ashley Pinkerton and community health freshmen Grace Lillibridge and Grace Smith.