DBU's Big Idea Challenge 2021

Cole Dodson
One of the first place winners, Cole Dodson

"Recognizing that God is creative and we are all created in God's image translates to the fact that we are all creative," says Dr. Toni McNutt, who serves as Professor of Marketing at DBU. "We all not only have the ability to be creative, but the responsibility to be creative."

This past Spring, the College of Business hosted the annual "Big Idea Challenge" (BIC), a campus wide event which provides an outlet for students to test innovative ideas, train in Creative Thinking Workshops, and give participants the chance to win scholarships and cash prizes provided by the Lion's Den DFW. This event, however, is far more than simply pitching ideas and winning money. The Center for Business as Mission sees the BIC as "a learning opportunity that will better equip students to co-labor with God in restoring creation," states Dr. Ross O'Brien, who is Director of the Center for Business as a Mission.

An event of this caliber takes the collective minds of DBU's finest to create, plan, and execute. Dr. Ross O'Brien and Dr. Toni McNutt, co-creators of the BIC; Tamanno Hodjihanova, student coordinator entrepreneurship; and their team began working during the summer of 2020 to make the BIC 2021 happen. Of course, planning an event during COVID-19 demanded that even the coordinators themselves would have to think and plan in new ways: "The question was 'how do we best amalgamate multiple brains without students getting closer than six feet and while wearing masks?'" says Dr. McNutt.

The utilization of Blackboard Collaborate became vital for the BIC, and while this presented its own new set of obstacles, Rob Lewis and his media team truly rose to the challenge. What appeared to be a roadblock resulted in a whole new way for information to be streamlined and the contest to be accessed by even those who could not be in physical attendance.

The contest itself began with the examination of entry applications sent in by students. "The most challenging decision was the selection of presenters," says Dr. Joanne Hix, Professor of Business, who serves on the Planning Committee. "The entrants were excellent!" After narrowing down and selecting the final contestants, the real excitement and training began. Instruction was provided by both Dr. Justin Gandy, Interim Program Director of the Master of Arts and Master of Science in Management, and Dr. McNutt on Blackboard Collaborate in the fields of presentation and idea generation.

After extensive training and preparation, the contestants were ready for contest day. Judged on four main criteria—originality, impact, feasibility, and community enrichment—students were given two minutes to pitch their Big Idea before the judges, a small, socially-distanced audience in Piper Hall, and those joining in via Blackboard Collaborate. The BIC was blessed to have a distinguished panel of judges this year consisting of Kurt Knapton of the Lion's Den DFW Planning Team, and Professor Sandra Crawford Williamson and Professor Karla Kennard who both serve DBU as adjunct faculty in the College of Business.

Though all of the BIC's contestants showed great promise and effort, three Big Ideas stood out among the rest. Third place was awarded to Luisa Gonzalez with her idea "steministjobs.com," an online platform focused on women in technology searching for job listing positions and resources to navigate the job search process. Benjamin Truman was awarded second place for his pitch "Universi-tea Boba," which he describes as community-enriching Boba shops planted on college campuses to give students a way to support their local communities by simply buying their favorite drink. Finally, the first-place prize was awarded to Cole Dodson and Kash Adams for their idea of a container they call "The Pool Pod," which dispenses chlorine and takes the place of expensive, hard to find, and environment harming chlorine pool tablets.

"Our communities face many diverse challenges," says Dr. O'Brien, "and our students are uniquely gifted by God to address those challenges." The Big Idea Challenge gives DBU students an outlet to test the waters and develop dexterity for life after graduation so they may one day serve their communities better. On a more practical note, the BIC equips students with capabilities they may not have had before. "It's important to know that in getting a job after college, students will need to draw from a variety of skills," says Dr. Danny Rose, Associate Professor of Communications. Some of the skills these contestants learn include enhancing their presentation skills, learning how to communicate in concise sentences, overcoming the fear of public speaking, and responding to impromptu questions in a calm and educated way.

"Why is it important to offer an opportunity like the BIC?" asks Dr. McNutt. "On a base level, we would like everyone—faculty and business sponsors, participants, the general student body, audience members, and anyone reading this article—to recognize their innate creative abilities and responsibilities and consider ways to innovatively reach out toward the betterment of our communities in whatever ways we can."

Written by Emmalie Ellis

Emmalie Ellis writes for the University Communications department at Dallas Baptist University.