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Innovation Center to support campus ‘makers’; search underway for director

by Aug. 6, 2015, 9:37 AM

A rendering of the Engineering and Science Building, home to the newly announced Innovation Center. (Vanderbilt University)

A new Innovation Center is being developed on the Vanderbilt University campus to support a “maker” culture that will encourage entrepreneurship and creativity and bolster implementation of the university’s Academic Strategic Plan.

A search is underway for the center’s first executive director, who will build, oversee and spur the development of innovation and entrepreneurship programming, including workshops, lecture series, networking events, student venture creation programs and an accelerator series.

“The Innovation Center will serve as a point of contact for all students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship and be a home for launching immersive experiences,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan Wente said. “It also will enrich our work across all four themes of the Academic Strategic Plan: offering students a rich, intellectual community; interdisciplinary problem-solving; health care solutions; and educational technology.”

The Innovation Center will have devoted state-of-the-art space for collaboration, workshops and programming as well as prototyping and visualization tool space. Its educational activities will be linked to the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization and the Center for Student Professional Development. It will be housed in a pavilion designed as part of the new Engineering and Science Building, scheduled to open in the summer of 2016.

The executive director will report to Vice Provost for Academic and Strategic Affairs John Geer.

“In addition to connecting with the various resources across Vanderbilt’s campus, the Innovation Center will serve as a common space for students to develop and test ideas alongside their peers, with mentorship from faculty, alumni, corporate partners, Nashville’s dynamic entrepreneurial community and beyond,” Geer said. “The executive director will recruit and leverage this network of mentors.”

Partnerships and collaboration will be at the heart of the center’s approach to innovation. The executive director will be responsible for developing connections with all of the university’s schools and colleges to ensure synergies with existing innovation and entrepreneurship programming and formal curriculum, as well as faculty-led ventures and other programs and centers. The executive director also will work with the university administration, faculty and Development and Alumni Relations to establish corporate partnerships to support the center and to guide fundraising efforts for center activities.

More information about the position is available at vu.edu/innovation-director.

The search committee members are:

  • John Geer, chair; vice provost for academic and strategic affairs;
  • Jay Clayton, William R. Kenan Professor English; director, Curb Center;
  • Jennifer Escalas, associate professor of marketing;
  • David Owens, professor of the practice of management and innovation; professor of the practice of engineering management;
  • Sandy Rosenthal, Jack and Pamela Egan Professor of Chemistry;
  • Peter Rousos, director, economic and new venture development, Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization;
  • Chris Rowe, associate professor of the practice of engineering management; director of the Division of General Engineering; director of communications;
  • Doug Schmidt, professor of computer science and of computer engineering; associate chair of the Department of Computer Science; and
  • Larry Zwiebel, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Biological Sciences; professor of pharmacology.

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