Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC)

Making Innovation Central to Rhode Island's Future Gina M. Raimondo, Governor

A Meeting of Strategic Minds - The Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR Community

Published on December 2, 2010

The first strategic planning meeting of the Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR program started with Jennifer Specker addressing the working group. "This is an experiment, and we are experimentalists," she began, and from that moment, the event proved to be creative and innovative.

The Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR office wanted to have a strategic planning event that would be both effective and fun. The new award incorporates the visualization of science; so, why not visualize the strategic planning process, too? Facilitator, MJ Kaplan and two graduate students from the Rhode Island School of Design made this happen over the course of the two-day event.

The session on research infrastructure, for example, began with a large map of Rhode Island on the wall - only the partner institutions were labeled. Each table was given lists of the proposed equipment in the new EPSCoR award. It was the workgroup's job to put up the pieces correctly and fill in the blanks of what already existed around the state. This preliminary inventory led to the common idea that it would be a great resource to have available online. While this started as an equipment activity, during the cyberinfrastructure session, the route of the fiber to be laid was added by one of the special guests mid-presentation.

Throughout the meeting, notes and ideas were added to a large visual map on the wall. It started with just the mission and vision posted and it grew to a visual of the entire EPSCoR operation. Participants were encouraged to add to the map with the RISD students leading the way.

During the statewide alignment session, representatives from state government, business, and education were intrigued by the v in the room. The maps and diagrams helped lead to a vibrant discussion about our activities and new ideas for collaboration, especially our relationship with RISD, student involvement, and the capacity for making science visible.

The room maintained an enthusiastic, proactive energy even while discussing tough topics like evaluation and sustainability. Even with the hurdles ahead, everyone was ready to get to work. John Dunnigan from the Rhode Island School of Design summed it up best when he calmly said, "I see challenges as opportunities."


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