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IACT: Creativity for Tomorrow

Perspectives from the GEMnasium: Lauren DeClark

By Lauren DeClark '19

This past summer, I was fortunate enough to be a Collaboration Accelerator at the Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation and be a part of finding creative solutions to real-world challenges; focusing on education innovation. We were challenged to shift culture for Centerville School District, High AIMS Consortium, UD’s First Year Experience Coordinating Team, and the GEMnasium. During this time, and in the months following, I got to see the real world impact of applied creativity and experiential learning.

In the last couple weeks of the summer, I had the pleasure of taking lead on the deliverable for the GEMnasium challenge; creating a workforce enterprise for people who are in recovery from addiction and/or incarceration. Our response: Freedom Enterprise, a network of hospitality and service-centered enterprises, providing developmental support and opportunity for individuals re-entering society from addiction and/or incarceration. With the support of existing businesses and resources, Freedom Enterprise will pull together hospitality-centered work and a growth mindset to form meaningful work experience.

IACT’s humanity-centered design stretched my mind to think about the humanity and dignity of each and every person, regardless of their circumstances. Surface level, people need work. But I came to realize that it is so much more than that. People need support, belonging, and growth. People need people. That is why our ideation of Freedom Enterprise has a foundation in developmental support and growth, and using that growth to enhance empowerment in hospitality work.

This semester, we have continued moving forward with Freedom Enterprise, adding more students to the mix by offering a mini-course that focuses on the development; most specifically the development of how hospitality and a humanity-centered approach fit into all of this. Each week, 10 students gather in the GEM to deep dive into a single world, such as empathy, trust, failure, and pull out the meaning that we see fit for Freedom Enterprise.

Our fearless leaders each week consist of community members of the city of Dayton, who over the past couple months have become highly invested in the creation of Freedom Enterprise. Including, but not limited to, Susie LaDuca (Vertical Resident in Health and Wellness at IACT), Charlie Carroll (Pastor at City Church, Co-Owner of Table 33, and founder of Miami Valley Life Alliance), Chris Harrison (Co-owner of Table 33), Mallory Redmond (Pastor at City Church), and Lauren and Andrew White (Indigo Life Media and UpDayton). When we all meet on Thursday evenings, it feels less like a class and more like a gathering of Dayton citizens working to give back to our city.

This course continually reminds me why I fell in love with the IACT mindset. We sit down each week and have real, vulnerable conversations that are lacking immensely in most of my other courses. We go beyond the surface level of everything; ourselves, the city, the world, and talk about the real issues that lie before us. It is refreshing to be apart of a group of people who so strongly believe in this city and the people living in it.

At the Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation (IACT), our vision is to create a mindset of possibility that disrupts the world through 21st century citizenship. We believe in creative changemaking with a sustainable, humanity-centered focus that blends educational and vocational frameworks for self-determination and transdisciplinary transformation.  For more information about IACT, call 937-229-5101 or visit

The GEMnasium, located on the fourth floor of Fitz Hall, is a collaborative “test lab” for UD students, faculty, and staff to experiment with new learning models while working as servant leaders for social innovation. To learn more and experience the GEM (Growth-Education-Mindset) for yourself, join us for our Summit Slam on December 10th, 2018 from 3:30p-5:30p.

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