New Academic Minor Aims to Develop Highly Sought Creative Thinkers

file photo of Noel Studio

A 2010 survey by IBM of more than 3,000 CEOs revealed that the top skill sought in college graduates is creative thinking.

A new initiative at Eastern Kentucky University should make recruiters happy.

With its new minor in Applied Creative Thinking, EKU is at the leading edge nationally to prepare graduates to participate in the Creative Campus Initiative that, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, “threads through not only art and design, but also engineering, medicine and the arts and sciences.” The Chronicle article (Oct. 10, 2010) suggests that “creativity is not simply a product of personality or individual psychology, but is rooted in a set of teachable competencies.”

The Noel Studio for Academic Creativity and the Teaching & Learning Center (TLC) have partnered at EKU to present what TLC Co-Director Dr. Charlie Sweet termed “a unified voice.

“Creativity is seen as the number one skill businesses want in college graduates,” Sweet said, “yet the supply of colleges offering such a minor is small, which should put EKU graduates with this minor in great demand.”

The Noel Studio offers two three-hour courses for the minor: Introduction to Creative Thinking and The Creativity Capstone. For the remaining 12 hours for the minor, students can choose from among courses in a variety of disciplines to ensure a depth and breadth of learning and acquire specific skills that are introduced and reinforced throughout the multiple disciplines.

“What makes our minor unique is that it is both domain-general (the first and last course) and domain-specific (the four middle courses),” Sweet noted. “It’s appropriate for any major or discipline.”

Already, 19 EKU students with a variety of academic majors are pursuing the minor in Applied Creative Thinking, according to Dr. Rusty Carpenter, director of the Noel Studio, which has earned national recognition and hosted regional and national conferences. In May 2011, the Studio was spotlighted in the cover story of University Business magazine. The five-page spread focused on effective and innovative group study spaces at several colleges and universities nationwide.

“We are excited about the opportunities that these efforts will provide EKU students, faculty and staff,” Carpenter said. “We see the potential for EKU to recruit students who want to live and learn on a creative campus. Even in the introductory course, students will engage with the campus community and region as they embark on their mission to find creative solutions to real-world problems.”

Later this year, Carpenter added, students in the introductory course will be invited to discuss their experience with the campus community.

Carpenter, Sweet and TLC Co-Director Dr. Hal Blythe authored the introductory course textbook, “Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking: Taking Control of Your Future.” The trio also co-authored an article for the National Teaching and Learning Forum, and have been joined by Dr. Shawn Apostel, communication coordinator for the Noel Studio, to contribute three columns a year for the Forum under the title “Creativity Café.” The four also are collaborating on an upcoming book, “Teaching Applied Creative Thinking.”

Sweet and Blythe also authored “It Works for Me, Creatively” last year. The publisher, New Forums, “has us doing various books now on creativity,” Sweet said.

The applied creative thinking major springs from EKU’s Quality Enhancement Plan, which calls upon the university to graduate informed, critical and creative thinkers who communicate effectively.

“We share this goal of becoming a creative campus with some elite company, including Vanderbilt University, the University of Alabama, and Texas A & M University,” Carpenter said. “While their programs are impressive, none can quite mirror what we’ve begun to do here at EKU, aligning entities like the Noel Studio and the Teaching & Learning Center with rigorous and exciting academic programming.”

To learn more about EKU’s minor in Applied Creative Thinking, visit

Published on August 21, 2012

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