According to education reformer Sir Ken Robinson, addressing the complex problems of the modern world will require a generation of creative thinkers in all fields. “The challenges we currently face are without precedent,” he says. “More people live on this planet now than at any other time in history…We’re facing an increasing strain on the world’s natural resources. Technology is advancing at a headlong rate of speed. This is really new, and we’re going to need every ounce of ingenuity, imagination, and creativity to confront these problems.①” Involving students in the search for solutions to authentic, 21st century problems inspires engagement and creativity, and will help set up students as creative problem solvers in a rapidly changing, connected world.
At Pioneer, creativity is a prerequisite for the research students perform over 28 research areas. Adopting a problem-solving mindset is one way that students can generate ideas and ask original questions. Pioneer’s unique academic system supports students through the research process by providing a research methodology and academic content. Students adapt these tools in new and exciting ways in search of solutions to problems that interest them.
Jumana, a Pioneer scholar from Bangladesh (Computational Quantum Chemistry, 2019), came to Pioneer hoping to research novel solutions to the global energy crisis. “I was attracted by the possibility of perhaps creating some organic polymers which could produce electricity,” she explains. “Especially right now, renewable resources are so important since petrol will be depleted… we need to be able to find new sources of energy. One of the best ways is to use nature all around us.” By starting with a problem and working backwards to generate questions, Jumana was able to contribute original research in a subject she feels passionate about.
Mrinalini, a Pioneer scholar from India (History, 2018), found her research topic while on a family vacation in Botswana. On this trip, she was confronted with the country’s public health crisis in managing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. “I had a really powerful conversation with someone who was saying that the young people in this country would be lucky if they survived to age 40 or 50. I immediately knew what I was going to do,” she says. What puzzled Mrinalini––as well as many other scholars––is that despite government stability and a public health system capable of implementing policies that should have curtailed the spread of HIV/AIDS, Botswana was unable to control the epidemic. Mrinalini sought out a fresh way of looking at this problem, called the Botswana Paradox by some scholars. To do so, she reached across disciplines, taking stakeholder analysis––a methodology most often associated with business and public policy––and applying it to history in order to understand the 1990’s AIDS crisis in Botswana. Mrinalini concluded that a major flaw in the policy was the government’s failure to include key stakeholders, such as religious and spiritual leaders.
Our future depends on a generation of creative problem solvers–but it won’t appear overnight. Ingenuity, imagination, and creativity must be nurtured. Pioneer does just that by giving deeply curious students the framework, tools, and standards to conduct authentic research. When students are engaged in solving problems that matter–to themselves, their communities, or the world–creativity follows. Approaching issues with fresh eyes, Pioneer scholars ask original questions, link concepts across disciplines, and find solutions by observing the world around them.