Director of Programs and Partnerships, and William Jewell College alumna, Conner Hazelrigg, ‘14, returned to the College last year with a plan to expand Jewell’s influence into the continuing education market by developing a program that offers workshops integrating the College’s unique critical thinking lens to businesses and their employees. What resulted was EPIC Thinking – a Jewell-sponsored continuing education program that offers workshops and training seminars intended to develop and hone thinking skills for individuals in all professional sectors. Participating businesses can sign up for workshops and custom programs through EPIC that will enable them to grow their skills in areas like design thinking, organizational management and interpersonal relationships.
The idea for EPIC Thinking arose from conversations that took place among a Jewell task force and board members concerning the growing popularity of adult continuing education. As a result, Hazelrigg led the effort to install EPIC Thinking within Jewell’s framework, prioritizing the education of businesses and teams seeking workshops, programs and other custom solutions that can help boost their workforces’ performance and effectiveness.
“It is important to say that EPIC Thinking is powered by William Jewell College because the creation of this program would not have been possible if it weren’t for the culmination of support of faculty, staff and administration. The curriculum, so far, has been created in partnership with some faculty members and outside facilitators based on the subject matter,” Hazelrigg said.
Eric Blair, vice president of enrollment and marketing, has supported Hazelrigg in her efforts to develop the program. He is primarily tasked with aligning the messages and identity of the program with the College brand.
“EPIC is simply an extension of the greater mission to ask reflective questions, apply critical thought, and act with purpose,” Blair said. “There are more professionals in the KC region that have NOT had the Jewell experience than graduates who have. While not the same as the full 4 year undergraduate experience we believe we can provide growth and develop power skills that are generated by Jewell’s core curriculum. The ability to problem solve at a higher level, communicate more deeply and authentically with their co-workers, managers, and clients, and lead others with integrity and purpose.”
The College recruited Hazelrigg to work in the capacity of actualizing this then-unnamed continuing education program in October of 2019. Over the following four months, Hazelrigg worked to validate the necessity of such a program in the Kansas City area. After doing so, Hazelrigg and her team attached a name to the new program – EPIC Thinking. EPIC acronymized the values the program seeks to elevate in its participants – entrepreneurship, purpose, innovation, and critical thought.
With a few businesses already enlisted to take their employees through EPIC workshops in the program’s beginning stages, EPIC Thinking hit the ground running in its first months until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In true EPIC spirit, the new program critically evaluated changing circumstances and implemented innovative adaptations, moving their workshops to an online platform. Additionally, they restrategized the format of their workshops and are temporarily training their focus on individuals rather than teams.
“We did not feel like we could provide the value of a good team workshop via [Z]oom,” Hazelrigg said. “We are still planning on going back to offering [an] in person team workshop. We are monitoring Clay County and the other counties in which we would be going to [offer] these workshops to [find] the best time to reschedule with these companies.”
So far, EPIC Thinking has completed one workshop, which lasted a total of six weeks. From the curriculum and exercises of this initial workshop, EPIC gathered a packet that they plan to distribute forthcoming participants. There are also three other ongoing workshops, one that began in late June, and two others will span the summer term.
“[The] feedback we have gotten so far, is that it seems to be helping people think about scenarios or perspectives in which they had never considered before. That they are asking question of themselves, and ultimately coming up with new ideas that are helping spark excitement throughout their teams,” Hazelrigg said. “One woman said, ‘EPIC Thinking really helped me to see my team differently, and from that I was able to reorganize how they work together to be more efficient.’ It is a simple quote, and yet it really hits on what we are trying to accomplish. We are not trying to come in and tell people what they need to do better, but to help them see where they are today and imagine where they want to be in the future, then plan the steps to make it happen.”
EPIC Thinking plans to get back to team workshops as soon as Clay County and other areas return to conditions that will allow them to do so safely. In expanding their influence at Jewell, EPIC has begun talks with the Doniphan Institute and Tucker Leadership about developing a partnership with those programs in order to grow EPIC’s potential.