Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

May 2012

Journal Record Heralds USAO’s ‘Creativity’

An innovative program to connect Oklahoma schools and improve problem-solving skills reached another milestone on April 5 as the Journal Record recognized the University of Science and Arts with its yearly Creativity Award.

On hand to accept the award on behalf of the university were President John Feaver; Dr. Michael Nealeigh, vice president for university advancement; and Dr. Erik Guzik, associate professor of economics.

“This honor is rare and we thank the Journal Record,” Feaver said. “Bringing Erik Guzik to USAO has proven beneficial not only for our students but for students all over Oklahoma. As Oklahoma asserts itself as one of America’s high-growth employment centers, Dr. Guzik’s research is a great example of emerging programs designed to produce students who have job-ready skills.”

Guzik, an associate professor of economics at USAO, is the architect of the Virtual Problem Solving (VPS) program that seeks to foster creativity in the classroom.

VPS is a web-based technology that allows schools from all over the world to design problem-solving activities that address the specific educational needs of students of any age. It can be accessed by any classroom equipped with basic computer hardware and Internet access.

The program is used by 12 Oklahoma A+ teachers and more than 300 students to take on such issues as global poverty, community development and new business ideas for local economies.

VPS is underwritten by the Kirkpatrick Foundation based on a grant prepared by Guzik and the USAO Development office.

“We take great pride in sponsoring Dr. Guzik’s extraordinary research,” said Nealeigh. “His vision puts our liberal arts core mission to work for these students: creative problem solving is job skill No. 1.”

The Kirkpatrick Foundation was founded by John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick and is a private family foundation located in Oklahoma City. The foundation distributes approximately $2 million annually in grants and charitable activities and to date has given more than $60 million according to the foundation’s website.

Guzik, who earned his doctorate at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is now preparing for a summit in China hosted by the Hewlett-Packard Catalyst Initiative to present data on VPS and the A+ School project.

Hewlett-Packard selected USAO from hundreds of competing institutions to join an education consortium focused on discovering how new technologies might better promote and assess higher order thinking skills like creativity.

USAO is the only Oklahoma institution involved in the HP Catalyst Initiative.

“Through VPS, our project participants will soon have an opportunity to work with classrooms in South Africa, Russia and China on projects initiated and completed by students themselves,” Guzik said.

“The support of the Kirkpatrick Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, Creative Oklahoma and USAO has played a major role in securing these types of opportunities for Oklahoma students,” he added.

Guzik was awarded the Great Inspirations award by Creative Oklahoma at last year’s Creativity Forum for his work on VPS.

Creative Oklahoma is a statewide non-profit organization advancing Oklahoma’s creative economy through creativity and innovation based initiatives in education, commerce and culture, according to its website.

The Creativity Award was presented as part of the Journal Record’s Innovator of the Year Award banquet in Tulsa.

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