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Russ College students collaborate with peers, university to build campus creativity hub

Anna Hartenbach and Colleen Carow | Mar 19, 2018

Russ College students collaborate with peers, university to build campus creativity hub

Anna Hartenbach and Colleen Carow | Mar 19, 2018

This is the first part of a two-part series.

Two Russ College of Engineering and Technology student leaders are seeing their long-term investment working to launch an innovation incubator pay off as Ohio University’s C-Suite, a create space for student entrepreneurship and small business, moves into the physical design phase.

Chemical engineering student Faith Voinovich and mechanical engineering student Andrew Stroud got involved when they became Stanford University Innovation Fellows (UIF). Funded by the National Science Foundation, the UIF program connects students, faculty and industry leaders who have an entrepreneurial mindset. It was a springboard for the two to join fellow OHIO students – many of whom are also fellows -- to plan a hub on their own campus.

Scheduled to open fall semester on Alden Library’s third floor, C-Suite will be a central space for entrepreneurial creativity and innovation. The multi-functional facility will feature collaboration, peer mentoring, team meeting, brainstorming, ideation, and product lab space. High-end audio and visual communication capabilities will enable students to collaborate virtually with mentors.

Campus partners include OHIO the Center for Entrepreneurship, the College of Business, the Russ College, the Scripps College of Communication, University Libraries and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

“C-Suite is a way to pull in students from diverse backgrounds, majors and interests in one space where cross-disciplinary connections can happen,” Voinovich said. “I think out of it will come great ideas, wonderful teams, and the ability to create businesses, companies or services that really have the ability to change the world.”

The Center for Entrepreneurship, currently located in Copeland Hall, will move to the new space, making the resource more easily accessible to students from all disciplines.

“We are very supportive of C-Suite and what they’re trying to do, because it’s perfectly synergistic with what we’re trying to do,” said Center for Entrepreneurship Director Paul Mass. “The center is university-wide resource, and having that physical facility will make it easier for students from different programs to think of it as a facility for them, and to feel comfortable to collaborate, work and hang out.”

Voinovich, who has been working on C-Suite since freshman year, said the process itself has been educational: learning the university ropes, researching similar facilities, getting the word out, engaging faculty, conducting student focus groups, and fund raising.

Stroud -- who actually became engaged with UIF as a result of his early C-suite involvement in 2016 -- said even though participants represent different ideologies and skill sets, the whole team has had to collaborate toward the final goal.

“It has been exciting and strange -- I’m pushing for someone else’s idea to become a reality,” he said. “I cannot wait for the space to open.”

Now, as they turn their focus to design, students are working to capture their original vision and mission. Student focus group feedback noted the importance of incorporating bright colors into the space to inspire creativity. Voinovich shared that best practice studies showed that including a kitchen would keep students present and engaged.

“We’re really excited to be getting into the stage of looking at furniture, and just to get items in there that feel right for the space and sort of inspire that creativity,” she said.

Once the project is completed, aside from using the space, both students plan to keep listening for the student voice.

“My hope is that students are able to come in and have a more robust and beneficial entrepreneurship education as part of their time at OHIO, no matter what major or certificate program they’re enrolled in.” Voinovich said.

Luke Pittaway, chair of the College of Business Department of Management, said the project is a true fruit of student labor.

“There is no way this would have happened if the students had not have stepped into the leadership role, lobbied for it, persuaded other people that this is important, and demonstrated that there is student demand for it,” Pittaway said. “That’s why it’s important to celebrate these students.”