10 Clever Moves That Got ASU Named America's "Most Innovative University"

Melissa Fossum

Necessity really is, as Plato said, the mother of invention.

Arizona State University managed to earn the title “most innovative school” from the prestigious college rankers at U.S. News & World Report this year — despite the fact that Arizona leads the nation in higher education budget cuts. Number 2 and number 3? Cash-flush Stanford and MIT.

Here are 10 reasons ASU deserves the win:

10. ASU has streamlined the traditionally four-year bachelor's degree so ambitious students can graduate and get onto the job market in as little as two and a half years. 

9. In a first of its kind partnership, ASU has teamed with Starbucks to offer baristas no-strings-attached, free bachelor's degrees. Through the online program, Starbucks employees, many of whom are first-generation college students, also get guidance and support to help them cross the finish line. Nearly 2,000 Starbucks Employees have enrolled so far. The company has committed to putting 25,000 through school by 2025.

8. This year, ASU became the world's first university to offer students the opportunity to complete their freshman years online through massive open online courses (MOOCs), without even going through the application process. Students enrolled in ASU's Global Freshman Academy don't have to pay for the credit until they know they've passed. More than 12,500 people from 163 countries have signed up.

7. To decrease lag time between research and market application, ASU founded an intellectual-property-management organization, Arizona Technology Enterprise (AzTE), that has pushed the university into the top 10 among peers for invention disclosures, startups, and licensing agreements. So far, more than 70 companies have launched based on ASU discoveries.

6. ASU developed an online personality test to get teens thinking about college. Me3 matches middle and high school students with career paths that match their personalities and gives them advice on how best to get started. 

5. ASU, aspiring to support students socially as well as academically, has developed an app that mines students' Facebook data and helps connect them with friends who have common interests. 

4. Instead of simply stuffing 50 to 75 students into a lecture hall for math class and crossing its fingers that students catch on, ASU has started using web-based software to gauge which concepts each student understands and to suggest study materials for areas in which they struggle. 

3. ASU has developed an eAdvisor system that monitors progress toward graduation and cracks the whip when students get off track. The idea is to decrease dropouts by making sure students select a field that suits their talents. If a student doesn't perform well in statistics courses for two semesters in a row, for example, eAdvisor may trade that psychology major they've been set on for something else.

2. In lieu of a long list of required classes, through its new project-based Modular Learning program, ASU lets students work on a single large project, such as designing robot tortoises or creating a sustainable food system, so they can learn through real world application.

1. ASU continually monitors the job landscape, anticipating market needs and creating new majors. The university was among the first in the country, for example, to launch a master's of science in business analytics, which teaches students how to harness the power of Big Data. In its first two years, the program has tripled in size. 


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