Administrators cut the Isley Innovation Hub ribbon
East Carolina University Officials cut the ribbon Thursday on a new space designed to bring people together on campus to brainstorm ideas and solve problems.
The Isley Innovation Center transformed the former university library in the Wright Building into a 15,000 square foot multi-purpose space for entrepreneurial-minded students, faculty, and staff to imagine, collaborate, and create ideas and products. “Mark my words: Incredible things are going to happen in this space over the next five years,” said Mike Harris, acting dean of the College of Business.
In addition to the open space, the hub offers a One Button Studio for recording high-quality videos, a technology lab with design and testing software, the Wornom Makerspace, 3D printers and scanners, an automated cutting machine , power and hand tools, and a sewing machine for hands-on experimentation with ideas.
The innovation hub builds on the college’s success Miller School of Entrepreneurship, the first named entrepreneurship school in North Carolina. Eleven new companies have been created since the Miller School opened, Van Isley said, ECU Board of Directors member who, along with his wife Jennifer, funded the innovation center. “We don’t necessarily need home runs; a few hits can make a big difference,” he said.
Isley thanked former business school dean Stan Eakin; Jim Westmoreland, former trustee of the College of Business; Fielding Miller, ECU alumnus and trustee; and Harris for their focused, multi-year effort to make this space a reality.
“At Isley, we’re on the action,” Harris said. “Here, we want you to make some noise. Any student, any faculty, any staff – this space was created for the entire campus,” Harris said. “If you have an idea, if you have a problem you want to solve, we want Isley to be your first stop.”
The official opening and ribbon cutting took place at the end of the first day of the regular meeting of the ECU Board of Directors. Chancellor Philip Rogers said “the power of partnerships” was one of the themes of the University Affairs Committee meeting on Thursday. “I don’t know if there’s a better description of how a new facility like this can come together through the power of partnerships to advance our mission and advance our goals as an institution. And I think the power of partnerships is what’s going to sustain this place, now and in the future,” Rogers said.
Rogers recalled visiting the Isley Hub the first week of classes and seeing a senior engineering student mentoring a freshman in the creative space, named the late Sam Wornom, a dedicated alumnus who sat on many ECU boards. “And it was a special moment in just a few days of opening this place, to really see that power of partnership and the power of our mission in action. The mission that we have at ECU really drives this work,” did he declare.
Provost Robin Coger, who has helped create similar innovation spaces on other campuses, said she was excited about the important space which she sees as “a physical manifestation of the cornerstones that are extremely important to our university: teamwork, partnership, innovation”.
The value of multidisciplinary collaboration translates into more than a facility, Coger said, but “an entrepreneurial ecosystem designed to force original thinking for the College of Business, the College of Engineering and Technologyand for each college and school at East Carolina University.
At Friday’s trustee meeting, Rogers said innovation is an area he will challenge the campus community to prioritize as part of a refresh of ECU’s strategic plan. “To navigate the complexities of a changing higher education landscape and chart a course for the next five years, I believe we need to embrace a culture of innovation and be more agile and adaptable in our organization,” did he declare.
The work will take place at the same time as the UNC Board of Governors updates the system’s strategic plan. “We now have the opportunity to shape the future of ECU over the next five years in continued alignment with system goals and metrics,” he said. Managers are designing the process and schedule for the plan and will provide updates in the coming months.
With the start of the fall semester, Rogers has seen “a sense of renewed energy and excitement” on campus offering a full in-person student experience for the first time in two years. “I can’t think of a better time to take on our collective responsibility to deliver on our commitments and provide our learners with a high quality educational experience,” he said.
In other matters, ECU Trustees:
- Approved on Friday a 2023 lease agreement for student accommodation in Manteo for the Institute of Coastal Studies semester on the coast as part of the trustees’ consent agenda.
- Heard by Alex Keddie, Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Compliance, who updated the Athletics and Advancement Committee Rules on Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). Christopher Dyba, vice-chancellor for academic advancement, said contributions to ECU’s Pursue Gold campaign had reached $413.4 million. He thanked campaign contributors as well as those working to help ECU reach its $500 million goal.
- Received information from student affairs, Research, Economic Development and Engagement (REDE) and Academic Affairs in a presentation to the University Affairs Committee on partnerships inside and outside the university. REDE shared that in 2022, ECU received its highest total of sponsored awards at $82 million.
- Received an update on several capital projects slated for design and tender in the coming years, including renovations to Fleming Residence Hall’s bathrooms and heating and cooling system ; the second phase of renovations to the Mendenhall Building which will see the ECU Admissions Office move there; the first phase of renovations to the south wing of the Howell Science Building; a complete renovation of the Whichard building; and planning for a new 200,000 square foot Brody Medical Education Building, which will include a 500-space parking deck. The university has over $900 million in deferred maintenance projects.
- Heard presentations on civil discourse and free speech from Vice Chancellor Virginia Hardy and Provost Robin Coger on the new Strategy and Innovation Committee. ECU is intentional to provide students, faculty and staff with safe areas for debates, said Trustee Tom Furr.
- Received the annual report of the Office of Internal Audit and Management Advisory Services for fiscal year 2022 in the Audit, Risk Management, Compliance and Ethics Committee. Results included 102 consultations, 50 completed projects, 93 formal recommendations, and the identification of nearly $92,000 in cost savings and monetary recovery.
The next meeting of the Board of Directors will take place on November 3 and 4.