Are campus innovation centers serving all students?
- Carnegie Mellon, Brown, Connecticut and Iowa State universities, among others, have invested millions of dollars in creating campus innovations centers. Their goal is to attract nontraditional business students to campus for entrepreneurial development, and to create a pipeline of corporate partnership to the campuses, according to a recent article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Between 2008 and 2016, Carnegie Mellon helped to launch 250 companies mostly comprised of faculty members and staff from the college of engineering and schools of business and computer science. This representation, some say, is a limitation for centers as they largely attract white males from STEM disciplines.
- Matthew Mayhew, a professor of educational administration at Ohio State University, said in the article that universities should encourage students who become involved with innovation centers to also align with other campus activities, which helps diversify skill sets necessary for entrepreneurial success. "The central idea is still the same," he said. "Students can actually learn the steps in how to take an idea and roll it out to execution. And those steps aren’t necessarily just about developing a strategic business plan."
The Chronicle article also outlined recommendations for centers to create pipelines with existing small businesses in surrounding communities, and to inspire creative thinking from students in the classroom setting. These things are part of the 21st-century teaching, learning and training ecosystem, which institutions must align with surrounding industries and businesses in order to compete in today's marketplace. But they do not address the larger challenge and opportunity of growing diversity in the maker space.
Colleges and universities schools of all sizes and missions are developing resources for students to create innovative business concepts, but very few outside of historically black and community colleges cater to students from diverse backgrounds. This would appear to be the antithesis of innovation, which requires ideas and creativity be distilled from all possible areas of thought, and not just those that closely align with historical trends or demographics.
Establishing innovation centers to address disparities in public health, economics and education are more likely to attract a broader section of students majoring in diverse degree programs, from diverse backgrounds, and with a diverse set of ideas.
- Chronicle of Higher Education Colleges have spent big money on innovation center. Do they work?
- Education Dive In-kind donations from vendors, faculty help build Clemson innovation center