Grand, sometimes heroic, responses to two years of COVID-driven disruptions made it possible to serve CU Denver’s students and communities in extraordinary ways. For a much-needed change of scale, on April 15, ThinqStudio’s annual Unconference focused on “Tiny Innovations and Rejuvenations.” After these challenging years, CU Denver’s dedicated educators, staff, and administrators relished the opportunity to explore and share ways to persevere, innovate, and learn. On this different, not-grand scale, ThinqStudio asked about the tiny ways CU Denver faculty members have learned to cope and grow during the pandemic. Yes, faculty members have participated in the University’s large responses, building strategies for the future. Yet, great strategies can sometimes leave people feeling burdened rather than inspired, overwhelmed rather than rejuvenated.
Enter ThinqStudio’s annual spring Unconference, with this year’s theme: Tiny Innovations and Rejuvenations. Our planning began with questions about how to move beyond disruptions and their exhaustion. How, instead, to rejuvenate our processes, our practices, and ourselves? How to give space to little things that can be as valuable as “big” moments and ideas? Looking for those tiny steps, the crowd-sourced opportunity brought roughly 75 CU Denver faculty and others together via hybrid venues to share personal and professional practices learned throughout the pandemic. Participants included ThinqStudio’s Faculty Fellows and Dorothy Horrell Scholars at Large, who led sessions focused on opportunities and human-sized strategies (tiny and grand) for rejuvenation and improved learning for faculty members and students. Attendees explored ideas and experiences for rejuvenation that ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime: flossing daily, sharing our pets on Zoom, ungrading, unessays, unprofessional development, and, most of all, how tiny experiments and tiny changes in people’s lives and learning can bring large benefits when tried with humor and caring.
The main crowd-sourced themes that emerged included course structure, community building, policies, achievement, and assessment. One participant described the Unconference as “a rejuvenating day sharing with colleagues. Exactly what I needed for this crazy time of the semester.” As a plus, she was “happy that I walked away with a list of tiny innovations to adopt.” Others mentioned that they “enjoyed the flexible format and the time to talk with colleagues,” while another “really appreciated a low-stress yet productive and high-quality environment.” One enthused, “Love this creative, high-quality brand.” The Unconference ended with participants sharing some Tiny Commitments to themselves and CU Denver’s students. The Thinq community looks forward to continuing the conversations and sharing as we move through future semesters together. Join us in Thinq’s community!