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Revolutionary Challenge Finalists Unveiled

President's Panel on Innovation

President's Panel on Innovation members deliberated Friday, Oct. 25, to select the finalists. Photo by Joe O'Neill.

Dickinson College Unveils Four Finalists in Yearlong high-level idea competition

Dickinson College has unveiled four finalists for the Revolutionary Challenge, a yearlong high-level idea competition to generate new initiatives for harnessing the college's useful liberal-arts education for the greater good. The proposals selected by the President's Panel on Innovation (PPI) and the Board of Trustees to advance to the next round are the following:

  • Developing Leaders for 21st-century Revolutionary Challenges: To prepare a new generation of leaders, Dickinson will establish a college-wide curricular and extracurricular project-based leadership framework. This framework will prepare students for the wide variety of roles they may hold throughout their lifetimes. At the core of this initiative is a shared vocabulary of distinctly defined leadership concepts for students, faculty and staff that will assist students to more fully recognize the power of Dickinson’s “useful liberal-arts education,” build their capacity to apply it and enable them to communicate this ability to others.
  • The Dickinson College Data Science Initiative: Launch a data science initiative that leverages our leadership in the liberal arts to generate a transformative interdisciplinary curricular program that fosters internal and external connections through the analysis of data.
  • The Food, Agriculture & Resource Management (FARM) Lab: A thriving future for all depends on our ability to eat, live and work in ways that sustain the natural environment and its resources. The Food, Agriculture & Resource Management (FARM) Lab builds on existing institutional strengths to firmly establish Dickinson as a leader in sustainable living, innovative technologies and natural-resource management. At the core of this initiative is a vibrant space that facilitates learning, engagement and exploration. The design and construction of a new multiuse FARM Lab facility at the College Farm, using net-positive-energy green building technologies, will support academic research and coursework, house co-curricular programs and serve as a revenue-generating event venue for the college.
  • FutureLab: Collaborative Innovation for the Greater Good: Dickinson was founded on a promise to shape the future—to prepare students to live lives of meaning and consequence as they tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. Today, those challenges defy simple, static solutions and demand collaborative innovation. We must prepare a new generation to tackle the great challenges of their age. Turning those challenges into opportunities will require innovation that crosses disciplines and collaboration that blurs boundaries. FutureLab will function as a social innovation hub, enabling Dickinson to deliver on its founding promise by providing a framework for students, faculty and staff to collaborate with one another and with community partners. Cross-functional teams will focus on developing sustainable solutions to urgent, real-world problems. FutureLab will spur innovation, teamwork and collaboration through transformational strategies like agile project management, systems theory, human-centered design, futures thinking, adaptive learning and makerspace tinkering. FutureLab will serve as a catalyst for change across the curriculum, throughout the college and within our broader community by making collaborative innovation as essential to Dickinson’s identity as our existing strengths in global education, sustainability, civic engagement and interdisciplinarity.

The finalists were selected from 49 proposals, which were submitted by Dickinsonians around the world after President Margee Ensign launched the challenge last spring.

“It’s been quite impressive to see the inspired thinking that has emerged from our community during this process,” says Ensign. “I believed that the best way to innovate was to ask our community. Based on the response, I’m happy to say that our alumni, parents, faculty, staff and students have more than justified that belief.”

During an open comment period in October, more than 5,000 members of the Dickinson community provided feedback on the proposals. Incorporating that input, the PPI met to select the Revolutionary Challenge finalists.

“The rankings and comments we received were critical in helping us narrow down the proposals to the strongest projects,” said Jennifer Ward Reynolds ’77, PPI chair and trustee. “It’s been deeply satisfying to see Dickinsonians from all over the world get behind this effort.”

As the challenge moves forward, finalists will prepare full presentations for the PPI and the Dickinson community, which will be delivered on May 2, 2020. 

“This is an exciting time for Dickinson,” said Ensign. “Benjamin Rush founded this college to address real-world problems, and we’ve already taken a leadership role in impact-driven higher education through global study, sustainability and civic engagement. Now is the time to determine the next ambitious initiatives that will enable us to continue to deliver on Rush’s revolutionary promise and propel us boldly forward into the future.”


Published November 8, 2019