Spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship takes flight on campus

By Rita Buettner

Imagine a student conversation in Boulder Garden Café that sparks an idea.

After discussing it for a while, the students think they might be onto something. So they head to the Idea Space at the Loyola·Notre Dame Library. They participate in a consultation, bring their conversation to life on a series of whiteboards, and map out a business plan.

As the idea evolves, the students start to see its real potential. They turn to the Loyola Innovation Accelerator for funding to launch a startup.

At Loyola, that’s not a dream. It’s reality.

Innovation and entrepreneurship have moved to the forefront of the conversation at Loyola, and the University’s new Innovation Task Force is a driving force behind the changes.

“There is a need for Loyola to create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship on our campus,” said Josh Smith, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education, who was asked to head the initiative by Rev. Brian Linnane, S.J., Loyola’s president. “We hope to see this space humming with activity from all members of our community in different stages of an idea, from a business plan to a solution green-lighted by a vice president for streamlining a process here on campus.”

The Innovation Task Force is working to cultivate a culture of innovation on campus and off, engaging with businesses and organizations outside Loyola to develop partnerships and share resources.

“People who are running businesses in our community are doing a phenomenal job in economic development. Could our students learn how those owners do small business finance and accounting, so that those who are thinking about starting their own businesses are able to see, for instance, a small business budget?” Smith said. “We really need to learn from one another to determine what the future of business ownership looks like.”

The Innovation Task Force is working to develop initiatives and practices that through disruptive innovation generate new opportunities and address institutional efficiencies that will lead to the strengthening of the overall financial underpinnings of Loyola, as called for in the University’s strategic plan, The Ignatian Compass.

The Task Force is also exploring how the Loyola curriculum can support the growth of student entrepreneurship through a minor and possibly a major, as well as strengthen relationships with local business owners who embrace innovative thinking—and the chance to support students on their journeys.

“When people think of innovation and entrepreneurship, they typically think of business students,” Smith said.

“Our Innovation Task Force is comprised of administrators and faculty from across the institution setting out on a long-term journey with short-term benchmarks to increase opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and administrators to think about ways to make incremental, systemic changes at Loyola, in the Baltimore community, in the nation, and in the world.”

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