Cochrane Summer Economic Institute Develops Compassionate Leaders and Design Thinkers

Twenty high school students from around the Richmond region began the second week of the 42nd Annual Cochrane Summer Economic Institute (CSEI), a community outreach program funded by the Powell Economic Education Foundation and administered by Collegiate School.
Students accepted into the program hail from a variety of schools: Collegiate, St. Gertrude High School, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, Benedictine College Preparatory, Deep Run High School, Midlothian High School, Mills E. Godwin High School, Richmond Community High School and Veritas School.
Over the course of the four-week program, they are learning about business, entrepreneurship and collaborative problem-solving from various local experts.They also will be paired into teams and partner with local companies to explore more about their assigned companys challenge or issue, so that they can devise helpful solutions using the design thinking process of discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation and evolution.
"Our partner companies are generous with their time and resources sharing access to data, customers and their employees, enabling students to solve real problems for real people,” said Trina Clemans, director of the Cochrane Summer Economic Institute. “Each design challenge requires students to understand the people for whom they are designing, encourages creative thinking and calls for team collaboration."
Additionally, the CSEI participants will be introduced to the concept of compassionate leadership, the qualities of which include being mindful, adaptable, reflective, resilient and courageous, to encourage innovation, creativity and leadership — skills that will complement the knowledge they’re gaining about economics and entrepreneurship.
This year’s CSEI partners include ChildSavers, Dominion Energy, EAB, Richmond Raceway, Startup Virginia and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Student teams will be working onsite with their partners and at the end of the program will present their findings and solutions to leaders of the participating companies and organizations.
CSEI participants also will have an opportunity to work on a virtual reality design challenge over the next four weeks called Cities of the Future. For this project, they will again be grouped into teams and assigned a city (Austin, Texas; Hartford, Connecticut; Jacksonville, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; Raleigh, North Carolina; or Richmond, Virginia) that is a member of the Capital Regional Collaborative.
Using virtual reality, the teams will “visit” their cities to gain insight into infrastructure, growth, entertainment and sporting venues, parks and green space, and business and real estate, and devise solutions with the goal of building thriving, livable and resilient cities that attract millennials and members of Generation Z.
“Over the four weeks, students learn how the design thinking process enables them to address challenges in the world around them,” Mrs. Clemans said. “It's fun to see their excitement build as they realize they can play an active role in reimagining their communities."
-  Aynsley Fisher ’93
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