Creating a larger movement in innovation and entrepreneurship

By Molly Cochran  |  Photo by Molly Cochran

The inaugural director of Loyola’s new Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CI&E), Wendy Bolger joined the Loyola community in July 2018. She has previously worked as director of corporate and individual relations for Mercy Corps, the global humanitarian organization, and most recently as director for program innovation strategy for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, where she piloted solutions in Baltimore public schools. Bolger earned her Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature from Smith College and her MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia. Originally from Portland, Ore., Wendy lives with her husband and their three children in Montgomery County, Md.

Bolger, who brings 20 years of experience introducing new initiatives and projects to organizations to her role with the CI&E, spoke to Loyola magazine about her hopes for expanding innovation at Loyola and throughout Baltimore.

Why did you decide to come to Loyola?

The opportunity to put forward a vision at a place like Loyola was appealing to me, especially because my line of work has mainly been with institutions committed to social justice, like Loyola. I think the Center has real potential to transform Baltimore because of the reputation Loyola maintains.

Can you describe your prior experience with launching new organizations and innovative initiatives?

I have often been hired to launch new products or start new programs and teams. I love this kind of work because it’s challenging and very creative. It requires a lot of interaction and communication with a variety of different people. At the end of the day, I like to be able to show a finished product that I can be proud of—and that will have a positive impact on the community.

What about this specific initiative at Loyola was exciting to you?

What stood out to me most is Loyola’s reputation for social justice and role in the Baltimore community. I also liked that it was a clean slate, meaning I could come in and build the initiative from the ground up. I sensed readiness from the University to make this happen. The existing leadership and the dedication of the innovation task force are both fantastic assets to build on!

What advice would you give to Loyola students who want to be entrepreneurs?

I want students to know that I’m available to anyone who wants to come and talk. I wish I would have done more of that when I was a student, and I wish I would have known that professors and university staff are approachable. What they’ll hear from me is that I believe in going after what you love and what you are passionate about. The career path you take will fall into place, even if it’s later in life—if you start out with the mission to simply learn from your experiences.

One big lesson in innovation is don’t be afraid to fail. At this point in students’ lives, they don’t have anything to lose!

Can you share some goals and initiatives you would like to achieve while serving as the inaugural director of the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship?

Loyola’s approach to innovation and entrepreneurship is to be student-led and student-driven, grounded in human center design, and committed to the inclusive idea that innovation is for everyone. We are kicking off a trial year, with lots of testing to see what works. We want to make sure this initiative is part of a larger movement; the Center can’t come out of nowhere. There is a lot of innovation happening in Baltimore City, and we want to grow with that as a University.

The great news is there’s a lot of innovation happening at Loyola already. I’m getting informed and elevating what the University has in place. In addition, we have a new makerspace that’s coming to the Lange Lounge in the west-side residence halls. I’m also recruiting students for a new student steering committee that will run that makerspace, start a consulting group, and spearhead other initiatives.

Another plan of mine is to work with students in Baltimore public schools by partnering with Open Works, Junior Achievement, and other local organizations. This will give Loyola students the opportunity to teach about innovation and entrepreneurship, becoming instant experts. There are also fellowships for students who want to take their innovation and entrepreneurship to a higher level, such as the social impact fellowship Loyola offers and our University Innovation Fellows program.

I’m also in the process of building an advisory board to help with the CI&E. We are planning a Center launch, with a weeklong festival of fun and educational activities, which will take place Nov. 12-16, 2018.

I want everyone to know the Center is not a place, but rather a platform for innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s about the movement. The CI&E movement doesn’t just include Sellinger students, but everyone at the University. Innovation is a large umbrella. It means a lot of different things to different people, and we want to be open to all of them. I think Loyola’s Jesuit values offer a pathway to understanding innovation.

How do you see Loyola’s Jesuit education aligning with innovation and entrepreneurship?

What I’m discovering and excited about is how closely innovation and design thinking fit with Loyola’s Jesuit values. Empathy is very important to design thinking, as are concepts of reflection, observation, curiosity, and humility. Loyola’s Jesuit values focus on discernment, cura personalis (care for the whole person), and magis (which calls us to do more), which demand similar skills and awareness. Innovation is a good fit for and at Loyola, because the values are so deeply rooted, and so the approach will naturally appeal to people as they learn more about it.

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