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The Creativity and Change Leadership Department, also known as the Center for Applied Imagination, was founded in 1967. While the department is more than 50 years old, its history goes back to one of the pioneers in the creative education movement, Dr. Alex F. Osborn. As founding partner of a multinational advertising agency, BBDO (Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn), Dr. Osborn recognized the importance of creativity, imagination, and creative problem solving. As a business leader, he was acutely aware of the contribution creativity made to organizational success and, as such, began to develop and test methodologies that would enhance the probability that individuals and teams could generate creative solutions in response to complex problems. The success of his creative-process methodologies led to the publication of several books, most notably Applied Imagination. Released in 1953 this book introduced the Creative Problem-Solving process to the world. In literature related to the creative process, Applied Imagination remains one of the most frequently cited books on this topic. This book is perhaps best known for Osborn’s description of the Brainstorming technique.

Although he was a businessman, Dr. Osborn’s dream was to impact education in such a way as to preserve the creative imagination of students. With that in mind, he founded the Creative Education Foundation in 1954. Later this Foundation led to the establishment of the Creative Studies Department, now Creativity and Change Leadership Department, at Buffalo State. 


Creative Education Foundation formed by Alex Osborn at the University of Buffalo.

Creative Education Foundation moved to Buffalo State, Creative Studies Center established. First graduate courses taught at Buffalo State. Creative Studies Collection started at E.H. Butler Library.

Creative Studies Project initiated; a comprehensive experimental study on the impact of a sequence of undergraduate creativity courses.

Undergraduate program approved.

Graduate program approved.

Department hosts major international research conference and working research meeting focusing on the disciplinary aspects of the domain of creativity.

Graduate courses offered via distance education. Our 125th student graduates with an M.S. in creativity.

Faculty initiates first overseas graduate course.

Faculty initiates 18-credit hour State University of New York Graduate Certificate for Professionals through distance education.

Name changed to the Creative Studies Department, which houses the International Center for Studies in Creativity.

Department begins to offer the M.S. in creativity to distance students. Our 200th student graduates with an M.S. in creativity.

Parnes & Noller scholarship endowed; an annual scholarship to support graduate students in financial need. Scholarship established to honor founding faculty.

Mary Murdock Creative Spirit Award endowed; a student scholarship in honor of late faculty member Dr. Mary Murdock.

Entered into collaborative work with Sheridan College, Ontario, Canada. In support of Sheridan’s strategic plan, ICSC faculty provided professional development and participated in joint research. This collaboration eventually led to the creation of a board approved undergraduate certificate in Creativity and Creative Problem Solving at Sheridan. Curriculum and certificate endorsed by ICSC. Formal Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2015.

New York Times article on trends in higher education featured the work of ICSC (February 9, 2014, Education and Life Section).

Michele Marko Fairchild announces planned gift of $1.5 million to establish an endowed chair within the ICSC.

ICSC graduates its 500th graduate student.

Launch European based cohort of distance students in collaboration with the Academy for Creative Leadership and King Willem I College in The Netherlands.

Igniting Your Everyday Creativity MOOC (massive open online course) released. This MOOC, developed by Drs. Cabra and Burnett, was the third MOOC to be sponsored by SUNY. During the first semester of its availability, there were over 180,000 views, 43,000 enrollees, and 2200 individuals who paid to complete the certificate. Those who participated in the MOOC came from 158 different countries.

Sign Memorandum of Understanding with the University of the Virgin Islands. Through this cooperative program, ICSC provides the SUNY Graduate Certificate as one of three concentrations in the UVI Ph.D. program curriculum. Name of doctoral degree is Creative Leadership for Innovation and Change. First cohort of students begins August 2016. Through this MOU with UVI, ICSC alumni holding MS degree in Creativity can apply 18-credits from MS towards the UVI doctoral degree.

Buffalo State’s Creative Leadership program, in-house professional development program designed and supported by the ICSC faculty, receives the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Excellence and Innovation Award for Leadership Development and Diversity.

Department celebrates 50th anniversary and launches a fundraising campaign that eventually yields $113,000 in gifts over an eighteen-month period.

Enter into Memorandum of Cooperation with the Autonomous University of Bucaramanga (UNAB). Assist UNAB in establishing itself as the first creative campus in South America.

TIME Magazine releases special issue on the "Science of Creativity." Article within the special edition, "When Schools Get Creative," features description of the work carried out at ICSC.

ICSC enters into collaboration with Sichuan University, China. First recruitment trip conducted in April of that year. Goal is to recruit a cohort of 12 to 20 students each year to study in the United States and complete the MS in Creativity at Buffalo State.

Name changed to the Creativity and Change Leadership Department, which houses the Center for Applied Imagination.


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Center for Applied Imagination

1300 Elmwood Ave  •  Chase Hall 244 •  Buffalo, NY 14222
Phone: (716) 878-6223 •  Fax: (716) 878-4040