President Mary J.C. Hendrix announced the creation of a Center for Regional Innovation where business, industry, community organizations, and Shepherd faculty and students will be able to work together to develop new ideas that can lead to economic growth for the region. The co-directors of the center are Dr. Scott Beard, associate provost and dean of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education; Dr. Ben Martz, dean of business school development and chair of the Department of Business Administration; and Dr. Colleen Nolan, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
“Shepherd is poised to establish the physical space and the collaborative environment that will lead to economic transformation for the region and the state,” said President Hendrix. “Establishing the Center for Regional Innovation will unite and empower the people and ideas of our region for a future of opportunity and growth.”
Hendrix envisions the center becoming an economic engine for the community and the state while at the same time providing Shepherd students in all disciplines—from the liberal arts and humanities to professional studies and the sciences—to be involved in innovative, hands-on projects. Shepherd will offer space on campus where ideas for new businesses can be tested and created. Hendrix said the center will provide the opportunity for innovators from a variety of disciplines to come together to develop everything from new computer applications to business products and services. Examples range from computer applications to new ideas for sustainability, and then creating companies around these ideas.
Martz said one key component of the center will be a decision support room.
“This decision support room becomes an environment that encourages and facilitates creativity,” Martz said. “Creativity stimulates innovation. We want to provide an environment that large companies, small companies, start-up companies, local groups, entrepreneurs, students, and others can come to and feel energized about solving problems or creating ideas.”
Beard said Shepherd, the state, and the region will have a unique opportunity with the new center to leverage higher education assets to build economically vibrant communities in a variety of disciplines, help the region create a sustainable economy that leads to job growth, transforms the business outlook for the state, and gives students real-world career opportunities.
“Shepherd’s unique location will enable these new initiatives to be informed by leading experts in the sciences, the humanities, and business,” Beard said. “Our students, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, will have incredible opportunities through these real-world experiences to affect change in their communities. While this type of experience is usually found in more urban settings, Shepherd’s new center can be a regional hub for transforming the educational experience of our students and the economy of our state.”
Nolan sees the center as a place that will provide opportunities for students, faculty, and staff in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields to think creatively and to develop new ideas in areas as diverse as big data, robotics, biology, and chemistry. She also said the center will support efforts through the Institute of Environmental and Physical Sciences to create a more sustainable campus.
“Linking the activities of the Center for Regional Innovation with Sustainable Shepherd will not only demonstrate Shepherd University’s commitment to stewardship of place but also lead to the creation of a living laboratory deploying best practices in conjunction with new technologies,” Nolan said.
“The ability to provide a physical space where students from across campus can interact with community leaders and entrepreneurs will provide valuable hands-on training and experiences to develop strong leaders and innovators,” she added. “The center will also build on Shepherd’s growing culture of grantsmanship and our well established culture of faculty-mentored student research.”