Academic Minute Podcast

Robert Edgell, SUNY Polytechnic Institute – Creative Challenges and the University Reimagined

On SUNY Polytechnic Institute Week: Is it time to reimagine our educational institutions?

Robert Edgell, professor of technology management, suggests a creative approach.

Dr. Edgell is a Professor of Technology Management in the College of Business at SUNY Polytechnic Institute where he received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Swiss Business School in Zurich and has delivered research papers and lectures at various institutions including Stanford University’s Law School and the University of St. Gallen. Previously, he was a professor at American University’s Kogod School of Business where he was named Outstanding Faculty. He has presented his scholarship, reviewed papers, and chaired sessions at the Academy of Management, the International Atlantic Economics Society, and the Academy of Creativity among others. His research further develops the sociotechnical theories and practices by which collectives assemble and mobilize to tackle society’s most pressing and intractable creative challenges, ranging from grand opportunities such as the commercialization of interplanetary space to wicked problems including intensifying climate change. He was a co-PI recipient, along with Dr. Daryl Lee, of a prestigious $100,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Humanities Connections grant (9.5% acceptance rate) for Reimagining Entrepreneurship: An Integrated Pathway for Creative and Ethical Venturing. Dr. Edgell received his PhD in international multicultural management (magna cum laude) from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. He holds an MBA from Columbia University’s Business School and degrees in Architecture from Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design. Through Columbia’s Chazen Institute of International Business, he studied at Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management in The Netherlands. He is a registered Architect and has studied at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

Daryl Lee is Associate Professor of Humanities at SUNY Polytechnic Institute where he teaches interdisciplinary studies and coordinates the undergraduate Interdisciplinary Studies program. Dr. Lee earned two interdisciplinary degrees, a Ph.D. in Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society from the University of Minnesota and a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University. A recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, his teaching practice focuses on ways to tackle complex questions and wicked problems from a multiplicity of perspectives by cultivating intellectual flexibility and creative thinking. His work has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Creative Challenges and the University Reimagined

Our times are characterized by heightened awareness of the creative challenges that face society–both grand opportunities like outer space commercialization and wicked problems such as climate change. Concurrently, society is questioning the value of higher education, especially in relation to these challenges which require enormous creativity since they are complex, spill across boundaries, and disproportionately impact populations.

To gain insight, we investigated why social creativity is an important variable for a more complete theory of creative challenges and why educational institutions can, if reimagined, be an ideal site for developing this capacity. Creativity becomes social when we bring diverse expertise and knowledge together to collectively explore and solve complex, multifaceted problems.

We reflected on our five-year research project that animated social creativity through synthesizing interdisciplinarity, critical thinking, design, and entrepreneurship. Exposing students to these pedagogies gave them comfort with complexity, thinking from different perspectives, and abilities to creatively collaborate. However, we also observed that most academic institutions struggle to develop these necessary prosocial capacities.

Why? Because they are highly dominated by disciplinary structures, cultures, and external pressures which greatly hinder creative collaboration across disciplines.

We envision shifting academic priorities to bring social creativity into dialog with existing university degree curricula. We posit that this would better prepare citizens to embrace and remediate our tremendous 21st century challenges.

Read More:
Edgell, R. A., and Lee, D. (2023). Theorizing creative challenges: Why are social creativity and reimagined universities necessary for tackling society’s problems? Journal of Creativity, 33(2), 100051.

Recent SUNY Poly announcement about paper:

Original SUNY Poly announcement for NEH grant funding:

Researcher Profile for Robert Edgell:

Research Articles for Robert Edgell:

LinkedIn Robert Edgell:

LinkedIn Daryl Lee:


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