November 04, 2019

Explore SIU’s innovative spirit at the Center for Innovation open house on Nov. 12

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Innovation is deeply embedded in the fabric of Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The university is fostering that innovative spirit in many ways, including the creation of a new Center for Innovation facility. The center’s staff will work with students, faculty, staff and community members as well as businesses, organizations and other groups, helping them develop solutions and become more efficient and effective. In addition to individualized assistance, there will be classes, workshops and other services offered throughout the year.

Open house set

An open house is set for 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 to give everyone a chance to check out the Center’s new facility. It is located at One Innovation Place, 1745 Innovation Drive in the SIU Research Park. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Refreshments and drinks will be catered by Hunan Fine Asian Cuisine. Event co-sponsors are the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Small Business Development Center at SIU.

Meet young innovators

The open house will also give people the opportunity to meet some up-and-coming SIU student innovators and entrepreneurs – the 2019 University Innovation Fellows.

Seven Salukis have been chosen as University Innovation Fellows and the “pinning” to induct them into the national leadership program will take place that evening. In addition, these entrepreneurial and creative students will be on hand to discuss the individual innovation projects they will be working on throughout the coming year. 

“Since having our first Saluki Innovation Fellow (UIF) in 2013, we continue to be amazed with the UIF students, their ideas and their dedication to making SIU more innovative,” Lynn Andersen Lindberg, executive director of the SIU Research Park said. “They aren’t afraid to tackle big challenges that impact SIU, the region and the world. Whether working on ways to assist first-generation students at SIU, creating a series of innovation and entrepreneurship activities for high school and college students or helping rejuvenate SIU’s agriculture green roof, the fellows look for collaborative opportunities to bring about change.”

More about the center

SIU has actually had a Center for Innovation for more than a decade, but it was essentially a program rather than a facility. Initially led by the College of Business, it has been a component of the Office of Innovation and Economic Development for several years. Now, for the first time, there is a physical structure.

There are three major components within the Center for Innovation’s new facility:

  • A training and activity space used for design thinking and projects as well as innovation events and workshops. Campus and community members can rent this space when it’s not in use.
  • A small conference room for events; available on a rental basis for the community as well.
  • The headquarters for the University Innovation Fellows program.

 “As part of the Center for Innovation, we’ve created a collaborative space for the UIF students and their various projects and activities,” Tom Hovatter, director of the Center for Innovation, said. “It’s a creative work area that gives them the opportunity to collaborate with each other, businesses and organizations from the Research Park and the region, as well as with SIU faculty, staff and students. We can’t wait to see how their projects take root and grow now that they have a home base for their innovation activities.”

Workshops and more planned

One of the center’s flagship programs is a series of “Design Thinking” workshops. The design thinking strategy is utilized by innovative organizations to create an ongoing redesign of the workplace and its processes. Employees and management participate together in the exercises to maximize the positive outcome.

The workshops are tailored to meet the specific needs and desired outcomes of specific companies or organizations. Workshop topics include:

  • Team building.
  • Design thinking.
  • Positive body language.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Talent development.
  • Creative thinking.
  • Surveys/data analysis.
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) for individuals or groups.

The center has already begun hosting a wide variety of “Pop-Up” classes in conjunction with other campus academic units and departments. Each is a short “how-to” lesson, delivered by an expert in the field and ideal for students, faculty, staff and community members. The center recently hosted podcasting and virtual reality classes.

Fellows prepare to make a difference in various ways

The UIF program, created by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation with a five-year National Science Foundation grant, is all about empowering students to become leaders of change in higher education. The program is now operated by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (

This is the largest contingent of Salukis ever selected for the program. They have completed six weeks of interactive, online training and will attend the University Innovation Fellows Silicon Valley Meetup, an intensive training experience. They will also participate in business and innovation immersive experiences at Google, Microsoft and the Stanford and take part in various events and activities on the SIU campus as they become “agents of change.”

SIU’s new Innovation Fellows

The 2019-20 SIU University Innovation Fellows have diverse majors and backgrounds.

Those selected for the program, along with their hometowns (where available), year and major, are:

  • Jacob Bolton, a senior forestry major from Peoria.
  • Benjamin Bradley, a master’s student in history from Carbondale and formerly of Middletown, Ohio.
  • Joshua Cannon, a senior history major from Marion.
  • Grant Depoy, senior forestry and hydrology major from Macomb.
  • Nelson Fernandes, a mechanical engineering major with energy engineering specialization and math minor from Skokie.
  • Abimbola Iyun, a doctoral candidate in mass communication and media arts from Ibadan, Nigeria.
  • Prem Rana, a sophomore computer science and radio, television and digital media major from Bolingbrook.

Many projects planned

Each has chosen a special project to work on this year. The student projects include:

  • Digital humanities studio, expanding the Creative Writing Podcast Lab led by Pinckney Benedict at SIU into a full digital humanities studio, and also establish a Saluki Tales Podcasting Internship to create a podcast focusing on SIU student research.
  • Mentorship Academic Development, Resource management and Professional Development for (yo)U (MARP-U) platform to connect students and mentors.
  • Creativity and innovation lab – further facilitating student creativity and innovation with a wide variety of tools and designated space.
  • Green roof revitalization and modernization project – to refurbish the roof atop the Agriculture Building to make it more energy efficient, better maintained and better able to handle water runoff.
  • Student sustainability coalition – to better organize the registered student organization and get it increasingly involved in campus sustainable development activities.

For additional details

For more information about SIU’s Center for Innovation, call 618/453-4367 or email To learn more about the University Innovation Fellows, email or call 618/453-6754.