The Kaplan Institute: Bold Ideas for an Innovative Future

University Leaders Discuss the Newly Opened Kaplan Institute and Its Impact on Illinois Tech and Chicago



By Olivia Dimmer
The Kaplan Institute: Bold Ideas for an Innovative Future


Peter Kilpatrick, Provost: The Kaplan Institute is really an idea. Integrative, interdisciplinary experiences that focus on making things and projects that address societal impact are an important learning opportunity for students to work on teams, to learn how to be creative in their solutions to challenges, and to essentially learn the process of how you innovate and how you think entrepreneurially.

That idea, we have decided as an institution, needs to pervade everything that we do here at Illinois Tech in all of our student programs, all of our curricula.

Jeremy Alexis, Director, Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program: It’s a commitment to project-based learning. In the Tellabs Innovation Alley, students can develop a really rough idea on a whiteboard. They can then go into the Duchossois Idea Shop and build some early rough prototypes of it, and then go into the Grainger Maker Space and build that final prototype. And they can do that all within one building. And they’ll have support from a variety of experts and professionals to help them move those ideas along.

Denis Weil, Dean, Institute of Design: IIT’s already the only technical-focused university in Chicago. Now we can add to that we are also the only university who combines that with top entrepreneurial skills, with Howard Tullman being here, and with top design skills. We are the leading design school in Chicago.

Alexis: It’s moving the tech ecosystem a little further south. This area is really on the upswing in terms of how people can access and use technology.

Howard Tullman, University Professor and Kaplan Institute Executive Director: I think that we’re going to impact the economy of the city in really important ways because I think we’ll be a source of critical talent that the companies need to solve all of these new kinds of problems, which are basically going to be hard problems, and basically problems that are technology-based. It’s not going to be solving for three more social networks. It’ll probably be solving the Internet of Things issues and mechanical challenges and new materials challenges. And all of those will really require the kinds of skills that our students are learning at IIT.

Alan Cramb, President: I think if you look at the Kaplan Institute, it’s our university’s investment in the future of our undergraduates. We understand that all of our undergraduates are creative. They learn amazing things from our faculty. But what they need to do is practice creativity and taking their ideas forward, either on their own or with others.

So the future for all of our undergraduates is by going to the Kaplan Institute they’ll be able to practice innovation. And we think that innovation is something that you have to do, not think about. You have to practice. You have to build a prototype, you have to refine a prototype, and then you move forward. And we feel that if all of our undergraduates learn to actually practice innovation they will be innovators, and they will be leaders.

And we think that’s the transformational part of the Kaplan Institute.