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What is the Kaplan Institute?

With a focus on innovative thinking, entrepreneurship, and transitioning new ideas into products and processes, the Kaplan Institute is the first new academic building built on Illinois Tech’s Mies Campus in more than 40 years. The Kaplan Institute will house unique facilities and equipment for implementing novel, educational, and entrepreneurial strategies, programs and initiatives. It will feature workshops, media labs, classrooms, collaborative hubs, new and emerging technologies, and “maker spaces.”

Who are the benefactors?

The lead benefactors are Ed Kaplan (ME ’65)—an Illinois Tech alumnus, longtime member of the university’s Board of Trustees, and vice chair of the Executive Committee of the board—along with his wife, Carol. Ed Kaplan is a Chicagoan who co-founded Zebra Technologies, a global leader in barcode printing technology. $10 million of the Kaplans′ gift represented a successful challenge grant to help encourage and support the development and construction of the new building. To date, 14 other donors have contributed at least $1 million to the institute. The building is also funded by the generous philanthropy of hundreds of faculty, staff, and alumni donors.

Why was the Kaplan Institute built?

A critical strategic priority at Illinois Tech is to promote innovative thinking and excellence throughout the university. Illinois Tech is dedicated to providing students with an education that inspires technology-based innovation and entrepreneurship that will be relevant in the twenty-first century. Achieving this goal requires dynamic spaces, a state-of-the-art approach to critical thinking, and the tools and resources necessary to successfully apply creativity to practical outcomes and solutions. The Kaplan Institute will provide a much-needed place at Illinois Tech and in Chicago to attract innovative and entrepreneurial students who will learn to convert their creative ideas into significant and viable businesses. The institute will support them as they work to become the leaders, inventors, and entrepreneurs of the future. The mission of the institute is to nurture the advancement of critical and creative ideas, to foster interdisciplinary and external collaboration, and to create a culture that enables innovation and tech entrepreneurship to flourish.

What entities will be housed in the Kaplan Institute, and what programming will take place there?

The Kaplan Institute will be under the direction of its executive director, who will report to the provost. The executive director has been appointed by the president to be a University Professor. The KI will house and support programming of the Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program, the Entrepreneurship Academy, the Jules Knapp Entrepreneurship Center, the Grainger Maker Space, and the Janet & Craig Duchossois Idea Shop. The Kaplan Institute will be focused on student, faculty, and industry initiatives aimed at moving ideas from rough concepts to early-stage ventures as well as other programming and resources that support more traditional coursework in more interactive settings, team-based project learning, and the physical creation of products and prototypes. It will also be the new campus home of the Institute of Design.

The emphasis of the educational experience within the institute (once the students have completed some of the basic introductory programs) will be on the application of knowledge rather than merely its acquisition. Additional and essential learning will, of course, occur during the entrepreneurial process along with innovative thinking as the students engage in multidisciplinary collaborations across all of the disciplines offered within the broader context of the entire university. In fact, part of the entire purpose of the KI is to supplement the technical education of the students with critical and future-proof skills including critical curiosity, a commitment to change, leadership and team-building ability, an entrepreneurial mindset, a willingness to accept challenges, and a bias toward action.

What is the role of faculty in the Kaplan Institute?

Faculty will have the following roles:

Guidance and direction: Faculty from across Illinois Tech will assist in the development and direction of the institute. This will include the management of parts of the new curriculum and support, active engagement, and other participation in diverse programming and new community activities as well.

Interdisciplinary faculty research: Faculty will be able to spend time in project spaces at the building when conducting research programs that span multiple disciplines or colleges and that do not require advanced lab spaces.

Team-based learning: Team-based sessions and more interactive classes that are not optimally served by traditional classroom environments may be scheduled in various parts of the KI depending on space availability.

How was the Illinois Tech community engaged in the KI development process?

Engagement of more than 250 students, faculty, staff, and members of the broader community in the development of the Kaplan Institute was a multi-year process. Just a few examples of how the university engaged these constituencies include:

  • Student representatives on three separate committees: Design Subcommittee, Programming Subcommittee, and Site Selection Committee
  • Interviews with prospective and current students about space use
  • Online survey of current students regarding scenarios for use of the building
  • Student forum in the Idea Shop led by programming architects from Shepley Bulfinch
  • Discussion and workshops with faculty members and deans
  • Workshops with Institute of Design faculty and administrators (design thinking will be incorporated into undergraduate courses taught in the institute)
  • Open house with local businesses leaders about activities that would be useful

How will the Illinois Tech community benefit from the Kaplan Institute?

The Kaplan Institute will enhance and transform key portions of Illinois Tech’s curricula. All students will have the opportunity to practice design thinking, teamwork, and interdisciplinary collaboration as part of the IPRO Program within the new building.

Illinois Tech faculty, in collaboration with community and business partners, will have an opportunity to propose new programs for consideration as well as to take existing academic and business initiatives to a new level. Faculty will be able to spend time at the building when conducting research programs that span multiple disciplines or colleges and that do not require advanced lab spaces. Classes will be offered that are more interactive and team-based and that are not optimally served by traditional classroom environments.

How does the Kaplan Institute relate to Illinois Tech’s past history?

The Kaplan Institute continues our legacy of excellence and will join Paul V. Galvin Library and S. R. Crown Hall as another of the most vibrant and exciting academic buildings on Mies Campus. With its focus on fostering ambitious and innovative thinking to address critical problems, the KI will provide students with the tools and strategies to implement and transition new ideas into significant products and processes.