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UVI Physicist, Visiting Grad Student In Demand at Creativity Conference

The University of the Virgin Islands recently made its mark on the world stage at the 11th European Conference on Creativity and Innovation. With the help of a UVI physics professor, a New York State graduate student showed corporate leaders and academics how to kick start the creative process and how to keep it on track towards achieving any goal.

As they return to the territory the team of Physics Professor Don Drost and Stavros Michailidis announced that their workshop, called "Make it Happen with Momentum" was one of the top five offerings at the Brussels conference. They were asked by the organizers to feature the workshop as an encore presentation.

Momentum formed the basis for Prof. Drost's involvement as Michailidis, the graduate student, sought a practical application of this basic scientific concept. Once Drost taught Michailidis the scientific elements that produce momentum - mass, velocity and direction. Together they produced a formula that can be applied to a creative concept.

The conference was sponsored by the European Association for Creativity and Innovation, a not-for- profit organization providing a platform for the study of new ideas and ways to make them happen among academics, executives, consultants, trainers and the wider world.

The theme of the conference, staged in Brussles from Oct. 28-30, was "Think. Create. Innovate."
Michailidis, a graduate student at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College, said the goal of the 90-minute workshop in Brussles was to provide participants with a metacognitive framework - "a way to think about what you're thinking about."

Prior to presentation the pair tried out their concepts on a group of UVI freshmen enrolled in a SCIENCE 100 class. Drost said the students were introduced to a tool the team developed called a momentum matrix, which they then used to solve problems.

"The momentum matrix is a diagnostic tool we put together as a series of eight scenarios," Michailidis said. "We asked them to diagnose their own situations based on which one of those scenarios they most identified with. Once you diagnose where your momentum is then you can think about how to overcome it."

"UVI is involved in the field of creativity and innovation because of Stavros," Drost said.
Once the test was completed at home, the team staged the workshop at the conference, taught corporate trainers and consultants some scientific concepts and led them through a demonstration using various pieces of sporting equipment - a soccer ball, a football and a medicine ball. They introduced the metacognitive framework and showed them how to use it to analyze and reach a goal.

The workshop was so successful, Drost said, that one Danish consultant immediately went home and posted the concepts on his website. From Brussels he e-mailed word of their success back to the SCIENCE 100 class.

"I did send an e-mail to all of our students from Brussels and told them that Stavros and I have represented UVI and the Virgin Islands well, being chosen as one of the top five workshops and I've received numerous e-mails back from students who have thanked us for doing a good job," the physics professor said.

Michailidis said now that the conference is over and the University has had a taste of this concept he'd like to see UVI adopt a Creative Studies curriculum. He described it as part of a cutting edge movement called 21st Century Skills.

Longitudinal studies conducted at Buffalo College over a period of 30 years has shown that students taking Creative Studies class -- no matter what academic major they pursue -- are more likely to graduate and enjoy greater success over a lifetime than those who don't he said.

"21st century skills are the skills that are being claimed to be the core skills that people will need to succeed in the 21st Century. Four out of the six are creative skills, or skills that we learn in Creative Studies," he said. "I'd love to see at least a class on creative studies to give undergraduates, freshmen, seniors the opportunity to not only to learn content, not only to learn a subject but to learn process; to learn how they should think, to learn, how they should succeed."