Recently, I heard a presentation from Miami University Professors Peg Faimon and Glenn Platt about the details of the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies (AIMS) planned digital innovation campus to be opened in the San Francisco Bay Area. As an alum of Miami University, a public university in Oxford, Ohio, working in the Bay Area, this is an exciting development and makes me ask the question if this is the model of digital innovation education at undergraduate programs across the US.
This digital campus is an extension of an impressive program already on the Miami University’s campus. The AIMS center has two virtual-reality environments, 3D visualization tools, a rapid prototyping lab, mobile computing and learning centers, and gaming centers on the Oxford, Ohio campus. AIMS promotes a multi-disciplinary instruction model, with classes taught by engineering, business, and fine arts faculty.
Given this already impressive digital experience on their campus, why would Miami pursue a digital campus in the Bay Area?
Here’s why. A local campus in Silicon Valley offers:
- A direct lens in how the leaders of digital technology see the world
- Reinforcement of the emphasis on interdisciplinary instruction that AIMS has been championing, through direct interaction with developers, engineers, marketers, operations, finance, educators and managers in Silicon Valley
- Hands on Experience with corporate and not for profit companies, organizations, and ecosystem in the area
Now, in our current economic times, universities will have challenges in finding funding for these types of initiatives. But as funding permits, we will see this type of digital innovation immersion become more pervasive. It will start with the innovation labs built on campus like Miami’s AIMS center, but a minority will build these centers, or a group of universities will share a common center in technology hubs like the Bay Area. The model will follow the international education experience that many universities already have for students. For example, Miami has had a very successful international campus program for decades, with its flagship Luxembourg campus leading to more than 40% of undergraduates having overseas experience as part of their education. This model won’t apply only to digital media, Miami also has a similar model in Washington DC for a public policy based center. Any area of education which has a clear professional center of excellence for that area like Silicon Valley for technology, Washington DC for public policy, or New York for investment management may have universities striving to build undergraduate centers there. In Silicon Valley, Carnegie Mellon University has had a Silicon Valley campus for years and the Wharton School of Business has had an MBA presence here for most of the past decade, but those programs are focused on Masters and PHD programs, rather than an immersive undergraduate experience. News stories like this are becoming more common. This past week, Harvard University announced an innovation center in Boston to provide business students with a similar immersive experience with startups.
In January 2012, the Miami University AIMS Digital Innovation Campus will open in Silicon Valley. Undergraduate students will be able to have a semester long immersive experience at this campus. Students will live, work, study and embed themselves in the Bay Area to fully experience the innovation that occurs here every day. Most likely, we’ll hear many more of these stories in the coming years.