New program to link York College to community


Twenty-two York College freshmen will participate in a new program that focuses on innovation and design thinking, a concept pioneered at Stanford University that, according to Standford's website, emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration, practical learning and a combination of business thinking, empathy and technological know-how.

Dominic DelliCarpini, director of the Graham Innovation Scholars Program, is excited that the program will take students into the city of York. He hopes to foster a symbiotic relationship between the college and businesses and organizations in the city that will give the city a cultural and economic boost as well as help students learn to be better citizens.

After a pilot class last spring, this year's cohort of 22 will be the first group of students to enter the program. They will take one class together every semester, explained DelliCarpini, starting with their freshman seminar this fall.

Market project: By the end of the semester, they will have spent hours at Central Market interviewing vendors and customers about what they'd like to get out of the market or how their experience could be improved.

"You want to unearth something beyond vendors saying 'I want more customers,'" said Keith Murr, a project manager at TE Connectivity and adjunct professor who is helping to teach the seminar. "You're looking at the entire picture. Like maybe someone has a life story they can tell that can become part of their booth."

Students will make a public presentation of their findings and ideas at the end of the semester.

Student will work on their own project over the course of their years at the college and will aim to fill a need within the community.

Program fellows Erin Casey, CEO of Rudy Art Glass and adjunct professor in the behavioral sciences department, and Joanne Wilkes, who teaches in the engineering department, will teach the class along with Murr and DelliCarpini.

When the program's fellows get to know the students, said DelliCarpini, the students will be matched up with mentors from the community.

"I think this will change the way we educate our students," Wilkes said. "Instead of just listening to us, they'll be able to design their own projects and really grow and learn, using us as a resource."

The grand tour: The Graham Innovation Scholars were introduced to the city on Thursday with a tour of downtown that started at the Healthy World Cafe. DelliCarpini, who led the tour, wanted to show students the "successes and challenges" of the city.

"This is a success story," he said of the pay-as-you-can cafe.

DelliCarpini also took students to Royal Square, where they met Rita King, owner of Prime Art Supply Co. on East King Street.

King, one of the original members of the Parliament Arts Organization, explained the recent development of Royal Square and spoke of the area's artist community.

"People start coming up with crazy ideas, and before you know it, crazy becomes the new normal," she said, smiling, after DelliCarpini explained the idea behind the Graham Scholars Program.

The students were shown the Yorktowne Hotel, which DelliCarpini described as one of the city's challenges.

"This hotel was built and owned by the community," he told the students as they stood in the lobby. "One of the city's goals is to make it live again."

The scholars: Miranda Gajda is a nursing major from Lewisburg, Union County.

"It's different being in the city," she said. "Where I'm from, there are farms everywhere."

Gajda noticed the city's mix of new and old architecture and, when students were asked to write down reflections, noted that there is "a lot of room for preservation" and said that as the city "keeps making updates, they should remain grounded and remember what they were built from."

She hopes the program will open her mind, allowing her to discover new ways of thinking and push her outside her comfort zone.

"It's going to broaden my view of what I can do with my major," she said.

Cathy Cooper, a biology major, said she believes she was accepted to the program mostly because of her goal.

She came to the U.S. from Liberia in 2007 when she was 9 years old, and she would like to become a doctor so she can go back to her home country and help the people there.

Cooper, whose family now lives in Coatesville, would like to be able to build a hospital in Liberia.

"I want to go back and contribute to the renewal of their health care system," she said.

What does she hope to gain from the program?

"I expect to open up my creativity," she said, "and to be able to develop my own ideas. I never thought I was that creative."

— Reach Julia Scheib at