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PNC Foundation Commits Grant to Creativity and Innovation Honors Institute

News March 11, 2019

For Don Perini, professor of creativity and innovation and director of the Creativity and Innovation Honors Institute (CIHI) at Cornerstone University, the study of creativity does more than result in useful solutions to problems; it can lead to a lifetime of meaningful work.

Launched in 2017, CIHI reimagines the curricular requirements that often frame a collegiate honors program. Designed for high-achieving traditional undergraduate students who desire in-depth and practical knowledge of the relationship between creative habits, design thinking and vocation, Cornerstone’s new honors institute prioritizes the practice of in-demand career skills and a study of the Great Books that have influenced the Western intellectual tradition.

In support of the establishment and development of CIHI, the PNC Foundation committed a $25,000 grant toward the initiative.

“PNC is a Main Street bank committed to helping our communities thrive,” said Sean Welsh, PNC regional president for Western Michigan. “This innovative program helps students develop their creative skills and learn to apply them to real-world challenges.”

Since 2008, Cornerstone has led a decade of creativity-based and innovation-focused academic program changes. To date, efforts have included the integration of a creativity course as part of the institution’s core curriculum, development of a minor and certificate program and creation of a collaborative partnership with the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology.

“The PNC gift affirms the new focus of our honors program which is anchored in creativity and innovation,” Dr. Shawn Newhouse, vice president for traditional undergraduate academics, said. “PNC understands our vision for this program and believes that CIHI students will possess the broad-based skills required to meet the challenges of today’s knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy.”

As a key leader in implementing each phase of growth in creativity education at Cornerstone, Perini, a tenured professor who earned a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from National University, maintains a long-term vision for creativity studies as an integral part of higher education.

“If we are going to build lives that matter at Cornerstone, then we need to provide our students with the skills—empathy, ideation, flexible thinking—that are needed in the 21st century marketplace,” Perini said. “I am excited about the problem-based and experiential-based learning that will move our curriculum from creating ‘A’ students to ‘T’ students [who demonstrate both disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge]. These students are the types of students who will take risks, try new things and are able to discover new challenges and problems rather than simply solve them.”

While Cornerstone intended to limit enrollment in CIHI to one cohort of 25 students for the 2018-19 academic year, academic leadership expanded the program to accommodate two cohorts based on increased student demand. Students who successfully complete the 38-credit hour curriculum and five-course reading plan are eligible for a second, adjunct major in creativity and innovation that is only available to CIHI graduates.

“Two honors program cohorts bring an academic energy to our campus,” Newhouse said. “I expect that our learning culture will be impacted as a significant number of students learn to examine problems from a variety of disciplines; are trained in design thinking, creative habits and innovative techniques; and subsequently bring these skills to the courses they will take in their major. I look forward to watching it all happen.”

About the PNC Foundation

The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group, actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence. The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture. Through PNC Grow Up Great®, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has created a bilingual $350 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age five for success in school and life.

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