New speaker series brings alumni visionaries to the Brown Innovation Center

B.I.C. filled with attendees for Chip McGraw's presentation
May 16, 2024
By Mayakoda Bradford and Anna Boone
In launching the Alumni Innovators Speaker Series, the Brown Innovation Center (B.I.C.) is to set host Flagler alumni each semester to highlight the innovative things they are doing in their careers and philanthropic endeavors.

This spring, alumni Ashley Glickley ‘02, Chip McGraw ‘00, and Justin and Jo Lawson ‘08, kicked off the inaugural semester of this speaker series with engaging anecdotes of their groundbreaking work and cutting-edge ideas. It’s an un-matched opportunity for students and the campus community to meet and learn from these innovative alumni in the B.I.C.’s intimate, relaxed, and inspiring setting.  


Innovations in Education: 

Deep Dive into Expeditionary Learning

April 9 | Ashley Glickley, ‘02, studied Elementary Education and Spanish 

Ashley Glickley at the wheel of a boat

During the pandemic, educators worldwide struggled to keep students engaged in what they were teaching.  

Ashley Glickely, a magnet program coordinator and instructional coach for teachers, asked herself: “How can we increase student attention to result in long term learning?” In search of an answer, she adapted a mindset of exploration in hopes of engaging her students at Hawthorne Elementary School through second-hand adventure. 

Her first venture was in 2021, working with National Geographic Scientist, Jennifer Adler, to “capture 360 videos that immerse the next generation in aquatic science and allow them to experience fieldwork alongside female scientists working underwater.” Soon after, she involved her students in National Geographic’s “2892 Miles to Go” program, through which they spoke “virtually about coral reefs with an environmental artist, built water filters to send around the world, and Zoomed with a National Geographic photographer to learn about conservation and develop empathy.” 

Ashley Glickley in the B.I.C.

Glickly’s most recent adventure was a research expedition on the EV Nautilus research vessel in the Pacific Ocean. Every few days, Glickley Zoomed her students for a lesson about her team's current research and explanations of the live deep-sea video footage captured by the ships' remotely operated exploration units.  

“So back to my original problem, how can I increase student engagement?” Glickley said. “This was my answer: students need more real-world experiences.” She said with the level of global awareness kids have in our modern world, “we can't just put textbooks in front of them anymore.” 


Data Innovations: 

The Art & Science of Applying Data, Analytics, and AI to the Future of Sales and Marketing  

March 20 | Chip McGraw, ‘00, studied Spanish and History 

McGraw at B.I.C. podium

Chip McGraw, a local “marketing and sales guru,” wasn’t a business major at Flagler, but that didn’t stop him from exploring that field through courses like Calculus Two, Business Law, and Accounting.  

“You don't have to necessarily get a degree in business to be in business,” McGraw said. 

In fact, his Spanish and Latin American Studies degree paired with an interest in business set him up to successfully “implement businesses in Latin America by understanding the culture and speaking the language.” 

McGraw lived in Costa Rica for many years, “surfing and doing real estate,” which was one of his “first real businesses.” But McGraw’s “Innovations in Education,” lecture focused on his local “growth agency:” McGRAW that offers services like data licensing, data collection/ enhancement, and marketing solutions to scale small to medium-sized businesses. 

Chip McGraw surfing

With AI on the rise, companies like McGraw’s have found ways to implement this technology into their business models, a practice which was the center of his message to students. He discussed how his company utilizes AI within daily activities, not only for internal functions but also for client growth efforts and data services. Specifically, he noted increased efficiencies in “cost reduction, data analysis personalization, and quality control.” 

McGraw said AI has been a “game-changer,” for his business. 

“It's just really transforming the way we do business and the way we interact with our customers,” he said. “...Companies that embrace and really use this technology are going to have a strategic advantage over competitors.” 

He encouraged students to adopt a similar mindset as they enter their careers. 

“You really need to be on the forefront of AI and what you can do with it,” McGraw said.  


Innovations in Education: 

Self-Directed Learning for Empowering Children to Unlock their Full Potential

Feb. 15 | Jo and Justin Lawson, ‘08, studied Education and Social Sciences 

“We're here to talk about innovations in education,” Jo Lawson, Director of Sapna Academy and the couple’s joint-venture School of Athens, said in the presentation opening. “Justin and I, we feel like we're on the cutting edge of things that are to come within education. I titled our presentation today ‘A Creative Education’ because that's really our main focus in the work that we do with kids at our learning center.” 

Jo Lawson

Photo Credit: Shaun Ryan, The Recorder

In an interview with The Ponte Vedra Recorder, Jo Lawson said “self-directed learning means that we don’t have a set curriculum,” an environment in which she identifies herself as a facilitator rather than a teacher. “It’s all driven by the kids’ interest and their passions.” 

Quoting a favorite book, “Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli, Jo Lawson set the tone for their topic with a standout quote from the young adult novel: “School is everywhere and always in session.” 

Jo in Sapna with kids

“We've taught at public school, private school, charter schools, and we just could never find the right fit,” she said. “... deep down when we first met at Flagler, we always had the dream of creating our own school.” 

In a re-imagined way, that’s what they did with School of Athens, a non-traditional learning space facilitating “self-directed learning” for kids ages five to 15, many of whom are homeschooled.  

“Our unique spaces give kids an unparalleled learning experience working with futuristic technology while collaborating with their community to pursue their dreams,” the duo states on the center’s website.   

With the School of Athens and their other education-centered business ventures like the Radiant Learning Collective and a partnership with the local Tag! Children’s Museum, the Lawsons’ focus on creating opportunities for students to proactively approach their passions and interact with their curiosities.  

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